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Music Therapy for Less Stress and Better Health

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Dear Friends,

There is an old saying, “music soothes the savage beast.” Apparently, there is more to it than that, according to a recent article in USA Weekend, the magazine that comes in my Sunday paper. The article is titled “Healing Harmonies” by Tim Wendel. The lead in quote says, “In recent weeks, music has helped reignite America’s spirit. Now scientists say melodies may offer more power to mend than we ever imagined.”

The New York Academy of Sciences recently published Biological Foundations of Music, a collection of scientific research, which demonstrates, ‘the dynamism and richness of this emerging discipline’ of music and neuroscience. The USA Weekend article talks about how music, both listening to it and playing it, can change brain function, and how our bodies respond to stimuli. Studies are showing that cancer patients, those with Alzheimer’s, pain patients, and those with many other diseases, benefit from music. A study with Alzheimer’s patients showed that music helped them sleep better, because their serum Melatonin level went up significantly. One of the researchers said, “for the first time, we’ve been able to measure music’s impact.”

Researchers from the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, PA, conducted research with cancer patients that involved them playing drums. The results showed, among other things, stronger immune systems as a result of the “music therapy.”

The article says, “It seems now more than ever the healing power of music, over body and spirit, is being put to the test.” Many of us have always felt that music could help with healing. Now science is starting to show that we are right.

Normally, I wouldn’t quote from an article so extensively, but I feel that science recognizing music as medicine is important for us. It led me to turn on my CD player while I am writing this. Most of us with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome deal with poor sleep and weakened immune systems. If these things were improved for other types of patients by interacting with music, could it work for us? If making this assumption meant introducing chemicals into our bodies (medications), I would say it was a dangerous hypothesis. But I can’t see how including music in our daily arsenal of coping skills could be risky (unless you are young enough to listen to loud rock music with earphones!).

I personally take Melatonin to help me sleep. If listening to music for a while prior to going to sleep can potentially enhance its effect, I’ll certainly try it. I find music relaxing most of the time anyway. The only time I don’t want to listen to it is in the car, when I am having an irritable day. But even then, if I could find the right type of music on the radio, it would probably be helpful. Perhaps a relaxing tape or CD would help you get through traffic with less stress.

There is also research that shows music helping to strengthen the immune system. And now, cold and flu season is again upon us [to read Eunice’s last cold and flu article, go to http://www.immunesupport.com/library/showarticle.cfm/ID/2888]. This year, I think I will add music to my ammunition in the fight against the yearly “bugs” that seem to visit us all.

Particularly now, with the events of September, and the threats and incidences of bio-terrorism, most of us have more stress than we can handle. It is important for us to find ways to decrease our stress levels. When I was working in a pain clinic, I had a CD player, and I used to play classical music in the background. I know it helped me get through the day, and many of my patients commented that it was also helpful to them to have the comfort of that music.

What I am listening to right now is a combination of classical music and nature sounds. It is a cloudy, windy day, and quite cool for this time of year. Yet I am listing to a bubbling stream and birds chirping. I can almost feel the sun warming my shoulders. I also have several CDs and tapes of ocean sounds, with and without music. I find the imagery of the mountains and the ocean settings both relaxing and soothing. Yesterday, I was particularly upset about something, and one of the first things my spouse did was turn on some music to help reduce my anxiety.

Music is potentially another helpful tool to enlist in the fight with this disease. It relaxes, it soothes. It puts me in the frame of mind to be able to fight those daily battles within my body, and with the outside world. The USA Weekend article concludes, “It seems now more than ever the healing power of music, over body and spirit, is being put to the test…‘Whether or not people choose to recognize the power of music, it remains a spiritual experience, a healing experience,’ says opera star Denise Graves. ‘It can save us.’ Science is just beginning to understand how.”

I’m going to make a point of including more music in my life. Take care and be well.

Yours in health,

Eunice

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I welcome your comments and questions at: copingcorner@prohealthinc.com. My articles and email responses are not being offered as those of a health care provider. The information and opinions included are intended to give you some information about your disease. It is very important that you empower yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician’s advice, even if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your situation far better than I do. Thank you and be well.

Eunice

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