Music and Wellness:
Top Ten Tips
I am often asked what tips I would give to people interested in consciously using music in their lives for health, healing
and well-being. I offer my top ten tips to help those interested to begin their fascinating journey of life with healing music!
1. Understanding the two basic principles of music healing
- A. Entrainment
If one is to use music for therapeutic purposes, it is crucial to understand these two principles which I have discussed many times in these pages. Entrainment is simply the principle from physics that tells us that our biorhythms tend to synchronize with the rhythm , tempo, or pulse of the music. We instinctively choose slow music when we want to calm down and faster music when we want to energize ourselves. The isoprinciple states that in order to change a person's mood with music, you must first begin with music that reflects the state he is in to start with. If you're feeling depressed you cannot simply put on "happy" music to change your mood. It must be done slowly and carefully.
2. Music with Pregnancy and Newborns
B. Music and developing infant brain
We know now that the growing fetus' ear is functional from the fourth month gestation. At that point mothers should begin to sing to their unborn children on a regular basis. If you choose 5 or 6 lullabies to sing regularly, these same songs will comfort the newborn for at least 18-24 months after birth. They will also form the foundation of a healthy mother-baby bond, which is critical for the establishment of later healthy relationships.
We also now know that when the unborn and newborn child listens to Baroque, and Classical music, more neural connections are formed, which create a greater infrastructure for future learning. The Mead Johnson company has now made two CD's just for infants that they call "Smart Symphonies" and these CD's are given out to new mothers in the hospital.
Purchase Lullaby CD/download here.
3. The "Mozart Effect"---why Mozart?
The so-called "Mozart Effect" was based on
three controlled studies that were done at the University of California,
Irvine. All three were very different but all three used the music of Mozart to elicit various positive results. Afterwards, marketers put out the word that Mozart makes you smarter or raises a child's IQ. Not so. There is apparently a temporary effect after listening to as little as 30 minutes of Mozart that improves a students sense of spatial IQ. It is possible that other highly structured and highly organized music would do the same.
Purchase "Why Mozart?" CD/download here.
4. Music for Depression & Anxiety: how does it work?
A. Recorded Music
B. Live Music
There is no doubt that "music soothes the savage breast." In the hospital where I work, I often go on wards where patients have attempted suicide and are deeply depressed about the state of their lives. Usually I pull out my electric keyboard and some of my books of favorite songs. Invariably people begin to stream out of their rooms and find chairs near the keyboard. I invite patients to choose songs they'd like to hear. Many ask me to play "You've got a Friend," or "Unchained Melody." The music that works best for people is the music that has positive associations for them, reassuring and encouraging words, and music that calms them. Live music is always preferable to recorded, if possible.
"The Healing Power of Music" CD/download here.
(contains specific information for using music to change your mood and
lift your spirit.)
5. Music for Surgery
I know I've talked about this many times in previous issues and have now created my own tapes that you can order for your surgery. In a nutshell, people who listen to their favorite music through headphones before surgery need less anxiety medication; those that listen to their favorite slow, steady, instrumental music through headphones during surgery need less anesthesia, and those that continue listening into the recovery room, changing the music to be a little more upbeat, need less pain medication. There is ample documentation for this in the medical literature.
Purchase my "Surgical Serenity Headphones" here.
(can also be programmed for Parkinson's patients, Alzheimer's patients,
Lullabies, or your favorite meditation music.)
6. Music for sleep and rest
Almost everyone has some music that they enjoy listening to while they rest. When one is ready to sleep however, that music is often not good for falling
or staying asleep. More often, people need the same sort of music that one would use for surgery, i.e., purely instrumental music with a simple texture such
as harp or flute, and the tempo of the healthy resting heartbeat. Many people report that they like to use the machines that have a variety of nature sounds to choose from, such as gentle ocean waves, babbling brooks, gentle rain, crickets, and so forth. If one has trouble staying asleep, a continuous
soft sound in the background that blocks street noise or other noise, can be very effective.
7. Music in the Workplace
Apparently, there are some workplaces today that have banned all music. A friend has told me that at his business, which is a printing business, workers are not allowed to wear headphones because the managers feel it is a safety hazard. He reports that he can hear perfectly well when his music is at a low level and that the calming effect is very important to his sense of well-being. I understand that managers have to put the safety of workers foremost, but I think if workers are willing to sign a release saying they believe they can control the sound level adequately,
they should be allowed to do so. The music can not only calm people, it can also help them to focus.
8. Music and Pain Management
There are two kinds of pain: chronic pain and acute pain. Music will help some people simply because of the distraction factor.
Others may be helped by what we call “vibro-acoustic therapy.” In this, instruments with a strong vibration, such as a drum, are used
to communicate rhythm and intensity in a way that can feel like a massage. Also people with hearing loss can feel vibration and intensity
when hearing the music would be impossible.
9. Music with Addictions
When one is in the early stages of recovery, withdrawal symptoms are powerful. The craving to “use” is almost
overwhelming. People in 12-step recovery programs are taught to call their sponsor or recovery friends, use prayer and meditation, and also read their program literature. I have found with my clients that both chanting something simple, like the “Serenity Prayer” and toning on long, medium pitched vowel sounds to be very effective in breaking the thought of using again.
Purchase "Toning and Chanting in Addiction
10. Music with the Elderly
The well elderly as well as the impaired elderly are among the populations with whom music therapy has been the most effective. Everyone
loves the music from their youth and “courting years.” This music immediately brings back memories of a time when most of us are at a physical peak
and emotionally happy and hopeful. Patients I have worked with love the music from their childhood and youth as well as Hymns and other sacred music.
Research has documented the fact that when patients with Alzheimer’s disease can no longer recognize their family members to stay oriented to time and
place they can often times still hear familiar music,
enjoy it, and even sing along. Afterwards these patients are calmer, sleep better and eat better.
Purchase "Music for Memory Care" CD/download.
(Especially created for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.)
This concludes my “top ten tips” but there are many, many other ways that music can be utilized for health, wellness, healing, and recovery. Please
send me your own questions!
About Author Dr.
Alice Cash: Helping people to use music for Healing and Wellness.
Dr. Cash stresses the use of music for health, learning, motivation,
relaxation, energy building, or well-being. She is known internationally
for her work with music and pregnancy, surgery, addictions, and
Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Cash can be reached through
You may reproduce Dr.
Cash's articles as long as your use the complete version without editing
including the last paragraph.
Music and Wellness: Top Ten Tips; © Dr. Alice Cash
Return to Articles List