Music as Medicine: Exploring an Unconventional Path to Traditional Medicine26.07.2021Mad in America is a non-profit organisation that aims to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad. Being the cause of much controversy, Mad in America believes that “the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change.”
Basing their research on scientific evidence, Mad in America finds that music is one of the most powerful tools for aiding mental health. According to Steven Mithen, a professor at the University of Reading who authored the bookThe Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. “It’s been known for many, many years that music has therapeutic properties. It’s been in all sorts of areas — people who’ve got mental stress or physical pain. Doctors use it during operations, during dental surgery…” yet nobody has ever truly explained why music has this ability, why exactly is it good for us?
According to health professionals at ReachOut, an online mental health service for young people, music is more than just a form of entertainment. Their research shows that music is excellent at helping people stay focused, expressing themselves, being socially connected, inspiring creativity, and aiding relaxation and motivation. This ability to help relieve mental stresses is also reported in a meta-analysis of 400 studies by researchers at McGill University, Levitin and Chanda, their research shows that “music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress.”
Similarly, the medical journal Plos One, also concurs that the innate quality of music goes beyond entertainment value. They report that cognitively, “music assists in developing and maintaining “executive function” skills”, these skills help children and adults alike become more diligent at completing tasks. Examples of this include, children who regularly converse with music seeing improvements in their math and language skills; piano lessons in younger people have also led to improvements in word recognition; older children that continue with music are seen to get higher grades than their non-music counterparts. Likewise, adults that play music are found to have more “plastic and adaptable” brains, whilst patients that suffer from fatal diseases like strokes are seen to recover more quickly if they listen to music. Music has also helped patients with health problems like poor memory, depression, and anxiety.
Interestingly, the medicinal quality of music is not just bone-deep, according to ancient Greek philosopher Plato, music is “the medicine of the soul”. It transcends the mere body and is about much more than the strumming of a few instruments or finding the perfect pitch. Healthline believes that music is an identity, a form of unity, a purpose, a language and so much more. Consider for example national anthems, protest songs, chants, hymns, love songs or lullabies, all of these represent more than just entertainment.
The clear argument found here is that music is multi-faceted in its impact. We at Furity encourage our readers to make use of this unconventional medicine, whether you decide to make music or simply listen to it, we as humans must utilise such tools that enrich our well-being; mind, body or soul.
Written by: Zahira Rafiq
Edited by: Zahira Rafiq
Art by: Unknown