I was chatting with a friend last night and she told me a fascinating story of an experience she and her husband had while they were in Australia a few years ago.
As part of their visa requirements, they were sent to run a small pub for three months in a very small hamlet in the deep outback that only had one road in and out. “It was a dismal hopeless place”, she said, “where the customers appeared aged beyond their years with long drawn faces, sad expressionless eyes, colourless clothing and resigned demeanour. They never laughed or hardly ever cracked a smile.”
To liven up the atmosphere in the pub, they hit on the idea of creating a music playlist of songs that would have been popular when these ’old’ folks were in their teens. “You should have seen the difference in them when we played the music”, she continued. “They perked up right away. It wasn’t long before they started singing along and dancing around the tables. One chap started crying with joy when he heard a particular tune he hadn’t heard in years that reminded him of an old girlfriend.
When the time came for us to leave at the end of the three months, they held a party for us and begged us to stay. They thanked us profusely for changing their lives for the better.”
The Healing Power of Music
More and more today, we hear of similar tales of transformation in people of all ages who have been touched by the healing power of music. It is not unusual to meet people with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, for example, who quite suddenly and literally come alive at the sound of music that evokes in them precious memories of times past, some of whom have not shown signs of being aware of their environment for years and start to sing and move along to their favourite music here.
I have attended concerts held by an organization called “Music Mends Minds” whose members with Parkinson’s call themselves “The 5th Dementia” (how funny is that?!?) after the famous band “The 5th Dimension” who popularized some of the biggest hits of the 70’s like “Aquarius Let the Sunshine In”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “Up Up and Away” and so many more. I get goose bumps every time I see them come out of their stupor and get on their musical instruments and sing as if they were still teenagers.
But What about Us?
We, who still have all our physical and mental capacities to function and live normal healthy lives, could we not use a little boost to our moods and enjoyment of our life as we go through our daily activities?
Of course, the answer is Yes. We all want to be happy and energized and feel joy and merriment as often as possible, especially but not exclusively when we are going through a rough time.
How does Music work its Magic on our Hearts and on our Minds?
Glad you asked.
Now, you know me, I’m always interested in what’s happening inside the brain for things like this to work. Despite no obvious neurological benefits, all humans love music.
Neuroimaging studies highlight similarities between how the brain’s reward circuits … the pleasure-pain circuits … process music and other rewards like food and money and love and stimulants like alcohol. Yet neuroimaging studies are only correlational not causal by nature.
In recent studies, scientists started to nail down the actual causal role of this circuitry by using non-invasive deep brain stimulation. They figured out that communications between the brain’s auditory and rewards circuits is the reason why humans find music so rewarding.
This whole field of music therapy is burgeoning. Music therapy has been shown time and again to improve speech production, motor movements, mood enhancement and stress reduction.
One example of this I saw recently was a fellow who had Parkinson’s and couldn’t speak properly. What his therapist did was really quite remarkable when you see it. She got him to sing the words that he wanted to say to her. And he did, perfectly clearly. How amazing is that?
Do you like Music?
What’s your favourite music? When you hear certain songs, do you kind of go back in time to when you first heard it?
Let me know how it goes for you.
I have given you here a very brief look into the healing power of music.
If you would like to know more about how music can help you think, act and function better, or if you know someone you care about who could benefit from the healing power of music, drop me a line and I will get back to you promptly.
Post your questions or answers below and read what others are saying.
What I’m Watching:
Honestly, how lucky can you get with music like this playing on your transistor radio glued to your ear when you’ve just turned 19?
Enjoy this sweet journey down Memory lane.