The Healing Power of Music

“Emotions happen at a cellular level.”

-Candace Pert



Have you ever experienced back pain, a headache, or even come down with a cold or the flu when feeling particularly anxious, stressed out, or upset? As it turns out, it’s not all in your head. There is actually a proven connection between what we’re feeling, and how those emotions can in turn impact our bodies.


This discovery was sparked in 1985 by neuroscientist Candace Pert’s research, and what she found changed the way Western medicine looks at health and wellbeing forever. She uncovered a demonstrable link between emotions and cellular activity throughout the body. This suggests the presence of a biofeedback-like loop between the mind and the body—simply put, what affects the body alters the mind, and in turn, what affects the mind, impacts the body. 1


This has a multitude of implications, and it actually changed the way health care practitioners approached their treatment plans. One of those changes has been a movement to incorporate music into the world health care, and the research surrounding this musical movement has made it clear: music is not only wonderfully healing for the mind and soul, it has measurable benefits on the health of our bodies, too.


Music’s health benefits


Less pain


Have you ever put on your favorite song when experiencing a major headache, and found that it actually helped? Well, in 2020, a study exposed patients experiencing significant pain levels to their favorite music. Amazingly, it found that the pain-related response of patients was reduced while they listened. This is an incredible finding—simply putting on your favorite tune can help reduce the amount of pain you feel, and this is not just a guess. It’s a measurable and documented effect of music on the body.2


Reduces stress


Many of us have turned on some calm, relaxing music when feeling particularly stressed out... and that calming effect has been found to improve cardiovascular recovery from stress. Our cardiovascular system is actually impacted by our stress levels, and exaggerated responses to stress can damage our cardiovascular systems. This makes it all the more worthwhile to investigate ways in which we can facilitate cardiovascular recovery when we’re experiencing stress. As one study revealed, one of those methods is by sitting back and jamming out to the classics—that is, Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart, to be specific. 3


Helps with anxiety


Music can also help to reduce our levels of anxiety. One study exposed participants to music therapy sessions and found that over time, there were statistically significant decreases in anxiety scores, and that was for both the physical and psychological measurements for stress.


Anxiety can have grave impacts on our physical and mental health, and so it’s important to regulate its presence in your mind. The study also found that there was a significant difference between the length of stay in the ICU between music therapy participants versus the control group. This may indicate that a reduction in anxiety levels can help us to better recover from illnesses. 1 If you have found that certain tunes or musicians help relax you, use that to your advantage, and listen to them every day. The more you can expose yourself consistently to music that you enjoy, the less stress and anxiety you’ll feel.


The research behind the music


There is mounting evidence that stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions have very significant effects on our health. For example, in 1988, a study found “a significant relationship between daily stress and the occurrence of both concurrent and subsequent health problems such as flu, sore throat, headaches, and backaches,”4 and that is just one of many findings that concur with this statement—stress impacts our mental wellbeing, which in turn impacts the health of our bodies.


Nowadays, the mind-body connection has been solidified in scientific studies. Researchers are beginning to investigate the efficacy of various methods for reducing the physiological responses emotions like stress, grief, or fear can have on our bodies. One of the first things researchers began to evaluate was the impact that music could have on our health... and, as we’ve discovered, they found that it has demonstrable effects on our wellbeing. From reducing stress and anxiety to lowering patient’s pain levels, the power of music when it comes to healing our minds, and therefore bodies, cannot be understated.


Don’t underestimate the power of music!


The impact of music on our health and overall well-being cannot be stressed enough. A study conducted with premature infants in the NICU found that exposure to music had statistically significant and clinically important benefits for those infants. 5 Another study investigated the benefits of music on patients with moderate to severe dementia. It found that music therapy is an effective approach to reduce BPSD (ie, delusions, agitation, anxiety, apathy, irritability, aberrant motor activity, and night-time disturbances) that plagues dementia patients.6


Even further, a study conducted with terminal cancer patients found that “quality of life was higher for those subjects receiving music therapy, and their quality of life increased over time as they received more music therapy sessions.”7 The power of music to transform lives and significantly improve our health is well documented at this point, but its power has yet to be harnessed in earnest when it comes to the modern health care system. This is already changing, and the karuna school of happiness plans to be at the forefront of this movement.



The proven benefits of Indian classical music


Our transformational karuna journeys incorporate Indian classical music in order to harness its power to reduce stress, anxiety and pain and improve our overall health and quality of life. Indian classical music is utilized as it pays specific attention to the law of vibration. This law states that everything in this universe constantly vibrates, which aligns with the philosophy of Nada Yoga.


Nada Yoga and Raga Chikitsa form the backbone of an ancient system of music therapy, which is highly spiritual and enriched with everlasting energy content.”8 India’s ancient system of music therapy, specifically Nada Yoga, when practiced regularly has been found to improve the general well-being of subjects.9 Not only that, but another study found that Raga Desi Todi instrumental music led to a “significant decrease in the scores on depression, state and trait anxiety, and the four components of anxiety.” 10 The karuna school of happiness incorporates the findings of Western psychology with the ancient wisdom that the world is always offering us. One of the main ways in which we incorporate that ancient wisdom is by harnessing the healing power contained within traditional Indian music therapy.


When you become a scholar with karuna on your journey towards true happiness, you will discover the power that lies within incorporating our modern understanding of mental and physical health with ancient practices that have been helping people on their journeys towards true happiness for generations. Allow us to help you tune in to the vibration of the universe, while utilizing proven techniques from Western psychology that will help you to access your inner peace in earnest. When you join the karuna school of happiness, you will soon discover—happiness lives here. Welcome home.


References


1 Shultis, Carol Lee, et al. “Effects of Music Therapy vs. Music Medicine on Physiological and Psychological Parameters of Intensive Care Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Temple University, Temple University Libraries, 2012.


2 Antioch I, Furuta T, Uchikawa R, Okumura M, Otogoto J, Kondo E, Sogawa N, Ciobica A, Tomida M. Favorite Music Mediates Pain-related Responses in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Skin Pain Thresholds. J Pain Res. 2020 Oct 29;13:2729-2737. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S276274. PMID: 33154663; PMCID: PMC7605953.


3 Chafin S, Roy M, Gerin W, Christenfeld N. Music can facilitate blood pressure recovery from stress. Br J Health Psychol. 2004 Sep;9(Pt 3):393-403. doi: 10.1348/1359107041557020. PMID: 15296685.


4 DeLongis, A., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). The impact of daily stress on health and mood: Psychological and social resources as mediators. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(3), 486–495. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.54.3.486


5 Standley JM. A meta-analysis of the efficacy of music therapy for premature infants. J Pediatr Nurs. 2002 Apr;17(2):107-13. doi: 10.1053/jpdn.2002.124128. PMID: 12029604.


6 Raglio A, Bellelli G, Traficante D, Gianotti M, Ubezio MC, Villani D, Trabucchi M. Efficacy of music therapy in the treatment of behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008 Apr-Jun;22(2):158-62. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e3181630b6f. PMID: 18525288.


7 Hilliard RE. The effects of music therapy on the quality and length of life of people diagnosed with terminal cancer. J Music Ther. 2003 Summer;40(2):113-37. doi: 10.1093/jmt/40.2.113. PMID: 14505443.


8 Sanivarapu, Sravanti L. “India's rich musical heritage has a lot to offer to modern psychiatry.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 57,2 (2015): 210-3. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.158201


9 Kumar, Kamakhya. "Effect of learning music as a practice of Nada Yoga on EEG alpha and general well being." Yoga Mimamsa 43 (2011): 215-20


10 Gupta U, Gupta BS. Psychophysiological responsivity to Indian instrumental music. Psychology of Music. 2005;33(4):363-372. doi:10.1177/0305735605056144