It’s impossible to find adequate words to describe how important music has become in my life as part of the healing process from the seizure disorder that started in my brain almost seven months ago. Quite simply: music is not only soothing to the brain, it takes the brain to whole new levels of consciousness and conviction. I have experienced that first hand and I hope you will put on some of your own favorite music while you read my reflections as to how and why music matters.
When we met with one of my doctors in Charlottesville recently he spent a generous amount of time with me, examined me, and inquired as to the things that I was finding helpful in my recovery process. One thing that immediately came to mind was the importance of music. No day and no night go by without me spending time listening to music, either loudly or softly, of different varieties and genres. My doctor immediately affirmed that music could be good for the brain and that I should continue the practice.
Interestingly, my doctor did not prescribe the practice of listening to music and no one recommended it to me as part of what might go into the brain-healing process. I discovered it as part of my healing journey because of how much better I feel when my brain is being stimulated in this way. The ears, along with the eyes and nose, are direct portals into the brain and music represents a form of mental massage that at once stimulates and calms the brain into new ways of being. At this point in my recovery, it’s hard to get too much music.
That’s quite a shift from the days of old when I often thought of myself as being too busy to listen to music. I would buckle down and tackle the task at hand with legendary passion, focus, and drive. It was legendary because it would, at times, overpower those who were standing nearby or coming along for the ride. In other words, the legend wasn’t always positive. Notwithstanding my desire and commitment to be courteous and kind to others, my enthusiasm for life and life’s projects could sometimes knock others down and sweep others up in the process.
The disease that I have suffered from along with the treatments for my recovery have mellowed me out considerably and have changed my presenting energy in positive ways. In fact, I am better on just about every relational front, although I still have no problem embarrassing my daughter-in-law (there, I just did it again!). It will be a great day • that will never actually come for anyone • when I am always considerate enough to be nothing but a positive influence in every situation, with every person, and throughout every interaction.
In so far as I move in that direction and heal from this disease, however, music has been and will no doubt continue to be a part of the equation. It was fascinating to discover the hospital clinics and medical programs have come to the same conclusion. Stanford Hospital, affiliated with Stanford University in California, has a music program that brings live concerts, ambient music on the units, musician bedside visits, and portable CD players with a selection of CDs for patients’ use.
What does this have to do with medicine and healing? Consider the following paragraphs and quotes from their website:
“Music has been used in all cultures to uplift and invigorate, as well as to calm and ease. Oliver Sacks, in Awakenings, writes that ‘The power of music to integrate and cure is quite fundamental. It is the most profound non-chemical medication.’
Music in the Intensive Care Unit at Stanford and with cancer patients has been shown to reduce pain perception, alter blood pressure and respiration, ameliorate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and increase relaxation and improve mood. Dr. Raymond Bahr writes that ‘Half an hour of music produces the same effect as ten milligrams of valium.'”
Wow! That explains a lot when it comes to the importance of music in my healing process. It’s my brain that’s been damaged and the sound of music goes straight to the brain itself. I feel the effects and I know they are positive. I am still a long way from where I want to be, but things are getting better and music, along with medication, has been an important part of the equation.
This “discovery” is making itself felt around the globe, far beyond Stanford. Google “health benefits of music” and you come up with 170,000 hits. I like the article by Linda Wasmer Andrews on Yahoo! Health, titled “5 Health Benefits of Music“. Here is what she has to say as to what scientists have discovered regarding the health benefits of listening to music. It can:
1. Manage Pain
One way to manage pain is by diverting your attention elsewhere • and music can be a pleasant diversion. It has been used to help manage the pain associated with surgery, physical rehab, childbirth, cancer, burn treatment, and other conditions.
In a study from the University of Utah Pain Research Center, healthy volunteers were asked to listen to music, follow the melodies, and pick out sour notes. At the same time, they were given safe but uncomfortable shocks with fingertip electrodes.
As the demands of the music task increased, their pain decreased. And people who were most anxious about pain got the most benefit. The researchers noted that anxiety-prone people tend to be easily absorbed in their thoughts, so anxious volunteers may have been more caught up in the music.
2. Reduce Stress
Music can calm your mind as it soothes your soul. In a study from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan, new nurses with high stress levels were randomly assigned to either listen to slow, soothing music or simply rest quietly.
Those in the music group reported feeling less stressed, and they also had lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone levels.
3. Boost Immune Health
Some studies have suggested that music may give your immune system a boost. And it doesn•t only affect humans. Mice are susceptible as well.
In a study published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Japanese researchers played music for mice which had undergone heart transplants. Opera music by Verdi and classical music by Mozart reduced rejection of the heart transplants, but single-frequency monotones and new age music by Enya did not. (I’m not sure that holds up for humans with autoimmune limbic encephyalitis!)
The benefits here seemed to be due to music•s influence on the immune system. Among other changes, mice exposed to opera had increased numbers of certain cells that regulate peripheral immune function.
4. Encourage Exercise
Music at the gym or on a run can motivate you to work out longer and harder. In research presented at the 2012 meeting of the British Psychological Society, music psychologist Alexandra Lamont found that competitive athletes felt more in the zone when they listened to their favorite music during workouts. They also reported lower levels of perceived exertion.
5. Promote Sleep
Mom had the right idea when she sang you a lullaby. One common use of music is to promote sedation and sleep. And it seems to really help, even for people with chronic insomnia and those who have undergone stressful medical procedures. Among other effects, soothing music at bedtime may prolong REM sleep, the stage during which dreaming occurs.
When I read that list, I find myself nodding in agreement and saying, “That’s why music has become so important to me.” Simply put: music matters and I encourage you to discover its power for yourself.
Coaching Inquiries: When, where, and how do you listen to music? What effect does it seem to have on your body, mind, and spirit? What difference would it make if you were to listen to more music? To different kinds of music? To music at different volume? How could music become a more important part of your life?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
I really appreciated you taking a break last week from your usual Provision. Everyone needs to give their zest a rest • even you! I enjoyed reading some of your archived Provisions. But I look forward to you feeding my soul again next week with the kind of material that I have come to count on from week to week. Thanks!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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