Martin Luther when musing about the solace music offered to his sick and weary heart that was on the verge of overflowing, could not have better explained the therapeutic effects of music on the overall health of an individual. An average individual must have felt that relaxed sensation that takes over the mind and body during a stressful situation as they listen to their all time favorite song streaming out of their earphones.
A recent study has found the musical hymns to be effective stress busters for elderly individuals experiencing anxiety issues. The hymns were found to have a calming effect that distracted old people from the anxious thoughts of impending death and gloom. The study also found that listening to gospel music managed to instill a sense of control in older Christians irrespective of what gender, socio-economic strata or race they belonged to.
The co-author of the study, Dr. Matt Bradshaw of Baylor University, further stated that religion was looked upon as an important socio-emotional resource by the older adults and that contributed to positive mental health outcomes while experimenting with religious music. This study was part of the Religion, Ageing and Health Survey that was conducted in USA with over 1000 people taking part in it. The participants were mostly practicing Christians who were aged 65 and over.
The surveyed individuals were asked about their frequency of listening to the religious and gospel music, which ranged from ‘never’ to ‘many times in a day’. The parameters used to measure the effectiveness of the music therapy were levels of death anxiety, satisfaction with life, self esteem and sense of control over their lives.
How Music Lowers the Levels of Anxiety
Music and singing have an established calming effect on patients experiencing anxiety and depression as it effectively lowers the cortisol levels, which is known to be a stress inducing hormone. Music therapy when used on patients suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer, was found to alleviate the symptoms of the disease by reducing the levels of anxiety in the individuals.
Music therapy is administered by a trained and licensed medical professional who creates programs exclusively tailored for each patient. This program may include listening to music or even singing and writing music, as it is a holistic approach focused on improving physical,psychological and social functioning of the patient. The benefits of music therapy range from marked positive changes in mood to improved social interactions and conflict resolution skills. It is instrumental in improving self awareness in an individual as it also helps them develop relaxation skills that help them cope with anxiety issues.
Music can have uplifting effect in anxiety prone individuals as it successfully distracts a person from depressive symptoms like pain, fatigue and anxiety even when used in clinical settings. Music therapy is an evidence based nursing intervention which if incorporated into mainstream nursing practice can be the next best thing to medication with the added advantage of being cost-effective while treating chronic disorders. Listening to good harmonious music is a good way to keep everyday stress at bay and you don’t need to be a music therapist to do that!