Silent Night, Auld Lang Syne, Take Me Out to the Ballgame…. Memorable events of each year are marked by certain songs. In a similar fashion, the seasons of our lives are recalled by the music we heard during those times. Music brings inspiration, tears and a myriad of emotions. We have all experienced this phenomenon. What many people don’t realize is that music affects us on a much deeper level. It is received through vibrations in our ears and our bodies.
The vibration of music affects us on a cellular level. It affects the firing of nerve cells. It utilizes brain pathways that are not available to spoken word. The body naturally “entrains” to the rhythm of the music-that is movement adjusts in response to the beat. As a music therapist, I have been privileged to see this work to slow rapid respiration in hospice patients, help stroke victims regulate and normalize their walking, and help groups move from chaos to coordination. Of course, books have been written about the use of music therapy to stimulate brain activity, teach social skills, change behavior, express emotions and numerous other therapeutic uses, but the average person might ask “so what does that mean to me?”.
January is mental wellness month. Everyone needs wellness in mind and body. The benefits of yoga and meditation are well known, yet people are less aware of the positive effects of participating in music. Tapping along, singing, and moving to music are all beneficial activities that don’t require musical training. Have you ever found yourself tapping your toes to a beat? Our bodies respond to music naturally, and music participation can bring positive effects in mood, concentration, and overall well-being.
One activity that can offer music participation to the average person is a drum circle. Drum circles have begun to gain popularity. These are gatherings in which participants use various types of percussion instruments and join to make music together. The power of the group drumming makes it easy to understand why drumming has been a part of ritual and community throughout history.
Music making increases the immune response, and can trigger the release of the “pleasure chemical” dopamine. It improves visual and verbal skills in children and helps preserve brain function in people as they age. Whatever the level or type of involvement, music promotes wellness in mind, body, and spirit. So the next time you hear a tune, allow yourself to be drawn into the rhythm and carried into the music.