Sound Healing Intelligence Research Base

Sound base

This research base covers a review of websites, blogs, research papers, etc., on the importance of music for mental and emotional health, physical health, spirituality and generational intelligence via music that has been passed down.

 

Music and generational intelligence

Music is a significant aspect of cultures that is passed down from generation to generation. Songs that are passed down bring healing and connections within a community. A news piece covered by BBC showed how music brought generations together in an elderly residents care home at Staffordshire. Primary school children and residents of this care home get together and start singing songs from their childhood and dancing. Everybody thoroughly enjoys this time and it fosters strong connections. Music that is passed on from generations is thus important to maintain social interconnectedness between generations and communities. 

 

Interestingly, an intergenerational music project was created in East London between pupils from  2 primary schools in East London and seniors from 2 housing schemes, in 2011. This project was led by 2 music leaders from Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This initiative involved the creation of music with the collaboration of different generations together which allowed socialisation, collaboration, increased well-being, enjoyment and development of new musical skills. A similar but virtual, intergenerational programme called Together with Music, connects schools, community groups to older people in care homes with music is currently available. There is a virtual exchange of a song where participants record themselves playing instruments and singing songs and the older people respond in turn with their songs. Through music and making music, such creative connections can be made between generations to strengthen communities. It also promotes overall societal well-being.

 

Music and art created by previous generations can be inspirational and bring tremendous healing. For instance, the blues is an American art form that has been passed on from each succeeding generation. According to a story covered by American Creators on PBS News Hour, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram is someone from the younger generation who learned the history of blues and their techniques from previous masters. He also had troubles during school such as bullying, his parent’s divorce, homelessness, which made him connect deeply to the blues, allowing him to heal with music. He also hopes to spread his culture through preservation of older music forms this way. He thinks it is important to take the music that our ancestors created and embrace them, soaking up all their wisdom.

 

Music and spirituality7, 8, 9

“There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is” — William P. Merril

 

Music and sound are key concepts concerning the spiritual relationships of people. They are interrelated. An interesting take9: breath and the sound of the ocean are musical expressions of life. A story9: Swami Vishwananda shared his insights on Bhakthi Yoga once by asking a group of people to follow him to a spot by the side of the Ganges. His followers used musical instruments to play and they chanted as a means of entering an ecstatic state. Another story9: Having visited a Southern Baptist church in South Central Los Angeles, a retired British gentleman was mesmerized by the singing, clapping and dancing of the congregation. It seemed as though the music, the words, had channelled through them. There was passion, joy and human connection, all cause of music.

 

“Music should be healing; music should uplift the soul; music should inspire. There is no better way of getting closer to God, of rising higher towards the spirit, of attaining perfection than music, if only rightly understood.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan.

 

In some instances, spirituality is the inspiration to create music and in other instances music and sound allow a spiritual atmosphere to be created. For instance, softer tones allow you to contemplate and create a suitable setting for introspection during meditation. 

 

“Music is the easiest method of meditation. Whoever can let himself dissolve into music has no need to seek anything else to dissolve into.” –Osho

Sound meditation involves using the healing power of sound, such as by humming, Tibetan singing bowls, harps, chimes, to gain focused internal awareness, calm one’s mind and promote overall well-being. Sound is used to channel one’s attention internally to allow for introspection, self-discovery and self-inquiry. According to an observational study titled ‘Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being’ it was found that sound meditation with a singing bowl reduces stress, depression, and anxiety increases relaxation and spiritual well-being.

A story9: “For years I would separate my morning mediation practice from practising my instrument, often running out of time for one or the other. One day I brought my guitar and my original melodies to my morning meditation ritual and discovered both practices, and my own sense of connection were greatly enhanced by the union.”

 

Music for physical health3

According to an article on the official website of the American Psychological Association, a variety of research are assessing the health outcomes of music therapy on people with both physical and mental diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression, as well as for premature infants. According to a study, parent-preferred lullabies, and live sounds administered by a certified music therapist, can influence respiratory and cardiac functions, improve feeding behaviours and sucking patterns and reduce stress by increasing bonding, in premature infants at the NICU.

 

A meta-analysis found that music improves our immune system, in addition to the reduction of stress and improvement of mood. Additionally, they found that music over prescription drugs was more effective in reducing anxiety before surgery.

Notably, music therapy has been shown to be useful in supportive cancer care. Cancer is a debilitating disease that affects the body both physically and mentally. Due to its gravity, cancer affects the patients’ emotional well-being and induces feelings of anger, fear, sadness, guilt, shame, etc. With music therapy alongside medical treatment, the patient’s mood can be improved, their stress, pain and anxiety can be reduced. Maintaining good emotional health is suggested to be important for a good prognosis and recovery6. Music therapy has also been shown to influence mood in neurological patients, where mood disorders are commonly present as comorbid conditions5.

 

Music therapy and music-assisted relaxation and imagery have been employed in diabetes self-management and education/training4, where they were shown to potentially reduce the systolic blood pressure of diabetic patients with a comorbidity of hypertension.

 

Vibroacoustic therapy involves using low-frequency sound to produce vibrations that are directly applied to the body. Short-term vibroacoustic therapy was found to improve symptoms in Parkinson’s disease such as reduced rigidity and tremors, and better-walking speed (3).

 

Music for mental and emotional health1, 2 

Music has tremendous positive impacts on emotional and mental health and has been shown to improve various mental health diseases. Listening to your favourite soundtracks is a great stress relief and helps to distract you from negative, self-defeating thinking patterns, which may otherwise progress into mood disorders like depression. Therefore, it is a great tool to heal and mentally relax.

 

According to a blog post on the official website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and research, music therapy has many benefits for mental health conditions like depression, trauma, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Music therapy is thought to exert its effects on mental health by allowing a medium for emotional release and processing various emotions. 

For instance, individuals may be able to relate to the lyrics of the songs and this brings clarity to them, regarding their mental health. Julia Michaels ft. Selena Gomez released a song called “Anxiety” where Michaels sings about her own, personal mental health struggles and is supported by her friend Gomez who also sought professional help for her depression and anxiety in the past. The main concept the song expresses is how Michaels friends don’t fully understand how complex and difficult anxiety is and although they try to help by recommending remedies, it isn’t as straightforward. 

Music therapy can also help as a calming agent to help reduce stress and anxiety, by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system.

 

With music therapy for mental health, there are 4 types of interventions, as explained by Molly Warren who is a music therapist and has worked with individuals who have experienced trauma, depression, addiction and more: lyrics analysis, improvisation, active music listening, and songwriting. Lyric analysis is where the patient is offered to provide their insight on the lyrics to a song, such as the themes from the lyrics they can apply to their own mental struggles and life. Improvisation is where patients can freely play musical instruments, which serve as a means of emotional expression, socialisation and catharsis. Further, within the small group of patients who play music, they can discuss their feelings together, in relation to the music they create. Active music listening allows engagement of the neocortex, which reduces impulsivity. The music therapist can play music to match the patient’s mood and slowly move onto music that induces a more positive or calm state. Songwriting allows individuals to express themselves, their thoughts, experiences and is a very cathartic release of internal struggles. 

 

Additionally, the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) reviewed the recent research on the influence of music on brain health. Collectively it was agreed that music is a powerful tool for a healthy brain, which is paramount for good mental health. Music stimulates the brain and research shows that it has positive effects on brain chemicals such as dopamine, and oxytocin which is important to feel pleasure and also reduce the stress hormone cortisol. The GCBH has produced 10 recommendations on how individuals can include music in their lives to improve their mental well-being:

 

  1. Put in the effort to listen to music. Download music apps like Spotify or Apple music.
  2. Dance, sing or move to your favourite tunes. They not only provide physical exercise but also reduce stress, increase social interactions and also are fun activities that can stimulate your brain.
  3. Listen to familiar music that comforts you and reminds you of positive memories.
  4. Listen to new music to further stimulate your brain and potentially invoke pleasure.
  5. Use music to motivate you to exercise. Moving to your favourite beats is a great incentive to push through your exercise routine.
  6. Get your hearing checked if you have any trouble with hearing, this is vital for both physical health, cognitive function and mental health.
  7. Make your own music by singing and/or playing an instrument.
  8. Make music with other people. This is a great way to socialise and have fun, which in turn is great for good mental health.
  9. Join the community choir, band, orchestra or form your own music band/group. This can help you feel that you belong and are connected to other individuals with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings.
  10. Try to listen to music that makes you feel happy if you are feeling sad or down. This can help to improve your mood.

 

According to a very recent review published in translational psychiatry, a growing number of researchers indicates that music engagement is positively associated with increased well-being and emotional competence, thereby potentially leading to better mental health outcomes. A strong effect of music on emotions has been established, owing to the activation of the brain’s reward circuitry by listening to music leading to motivational and hedonic outcomes. This supports the positive impacts of music on emotional regulation. Having said that, the current body of knowledge lacks rigorous intervention studies with large-scale populations so that a better understanding of music engagement on emotional well-being and mental health could be denoted.

 

Sources (references not provided below are given as in-text links in the appropriate locations)

  1. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health
  2. https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/global-council-on-brain-health/music/
  3. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23771840/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369551/
  6. The impact of emotional well-being on long-term recovery and survival in physical illness: a meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
  7. https://www.si.edu/spotlight/music-and-spirituality
  8. https://www.explore-life.com/en/articles/music-and-spirituality
  9. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/music-spirituality_b_3203309

 

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