The Healing Power of Music and Sound
I’ve never been “Cool” with my music tastes, I guess having a lot older parents exposed me to music and artists of their era, that were not popular for people of my age, singers like:- Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra for my Dad and Barbra Streisand and ANY Musical or Show Tune for my Mum. Even to this day I can remember all the lyrics to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or indeed ALL Fred Astaire Musicals; he was my first crush (told you I wasn’t “Cool”!). Of course I’m more eclectic in my tastes now, but there’s still part of me that geeks out when Barbra comes on the Radio or I hear a show tune! Especially when I’ve had a few glasses of Vino on an evening with friends – ah do you remember those evenings?
Despite my lack of “Cool” taste, there is something so uplifting about singing my favourite song at the top of my voice and having a little disco in the Kitchen, whether that is a song by Sister of Mercy or a Steps hit, it doesn’t really matter! If feels like healing – and of course music is linked to memory and when I hear Frank or Barbra I think of my beautiful parents (who are now long gone) and my wonderful childhood. But is there scientific studies that confirm that Music heals, rather than relying on just my and many other people’s anecdotal proof?
Oliver Sacks in his book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” argued that music is essential to being human in ways that we’ve only begun to understand. Music stimulates the brain centres that register reward and pleasure, which is why listening to a favourite song, can make you happy. There is in fact no single musical centre in the brain, but rather multiple brain networks that analyse music when it plays, thereby giving music the power to influence everything from our mood to memory.
Does this mean we can harness the power of music to really improve our quality of life and help us deal with pain, mental, spiritual and or physical?
Across the history of time, and in every ancient culture, music has been used as medicine. Even Hippocrates believed music was deeply linked to healing and the medical arts. So this theory has been around for longer than I thought.
Therapists like me, are now, increasingly, using music and drums to promote healing; and recent research indicates that drumming in particular, boosts the immune system, and produces feelings of well-being. It is known to be a valuable treatment for many ailments like stress, fatigue, anxiety, chronic pain, arthritis, dementia, migraines, and many other emotional disorders. The process of drumming engages both the linear, rational left side of the brain and the creative, intuitive right side of the brain, and these two hemispheres often emanate different wave frequencies; so like deep meditation, or hypnosis, it brings them into synchronisation, creating feelings of euphoria.
And of course, it can be therapeutic, complementing traditional talk therapy methods like solution focused hypnotherapy (which I practice); as it lowers heart rates, blood pressure and cortisol levels in the body. While clinical trials, to date, have been small, the results are very promising.
So we’ve tapped into the Medical and Scientific explanations of why this works but is there a spiritual side to this too?
For decades people have relaxed and meditated to recordings of waves on the shore, wind chimes and the sounds of the forest. Sound healing, also known as vibrational medicine employs the vibrations of the human voice as well as objects like tuning forks, gongs, and Tibetan singing bowls. It is a return to ancient practices and is a deep and sacred element of many cultures.
People who have tried sound healing say they like it because it is non-invasive and relaxing. And lying on a cushion, cosy with blankets, listening to soothing sounds, is decidedly easier than stretching into the downward dog pose for your yoga class. In fact I have benefited from this myself, when I bought my own drum a few years ago for Shamanic Journeying purposes, the vibration of it really felt magical and healing to me. I felt its energy deep in my womb (which I’d been having issues with at the time!) It was part of the reason I bought it.
But can chanting "Om mani padme hum", or listening to Gongs or Drums really help you?
No controlled clinical trials have been done to show that sound healing or chanting works. But those who try it feel their pain diminish, this maybe because pain is subjective or it could be having a placebo effect! I’ve experienced a few sound baths in my time, and they are certainly relaxing and you do feel amazing afterwards. It also enhances any complementary healing you undertake like Reiki or Reflexology.
All things considered I believe music is a great healer, the Science is improving and although the jury is a little bit out, I believe it will be proved sooner than we think.
Let me know your favourite songs or music that uplifts you and improves your mood in the comments. And if you’d like to book a Hypnotherapy, Reiki or Reflexology session and experience some healing music, please get in contact.