The healing power of music

It is, therefore, no news that music—an art that can be instrumental in alleviating feelings of sadness can prove to be helpful in curing ailments and mental health disorders
Guneet Kaur with musicians at Ethno India
Guneet Kaur with musicians at Ethno India

Before hitting the sack after a tiring day, many of us prefer plugging in our earphones to listen to our favourite songs. Just a few minutes of immersing yourself in the rhythm can, somehow, give you moments of relief from distress. It is, therefore, no news that music—an art that can be instrumental in alleviating feelings of sadness can prove to be helpful in curing ailments and mental health disorders.

Shedding light on how music helps one de-stress, Guneet Kaur (32), an East Delhi-based certified music therapist, shares, “This is a mind-body medicine that helps us maintain or improve the health of the client. Different parts of the brain get activated at the same time when one listens to music; this is the basic principle on which music as medicine functions.” Given its cognitive benefits, music is often used by healthcare practitioners to aid individuals cope with mental and physical problems. “Here, you are not just relying on music to do the job, but also on the therapeutic relationship that one can build through music,” explains Kaur. 

Holistic approach to wellness
One of the greatest thinkers in history, Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that music has a cathartic effect on listeners and can extend relief from negative emotions. Plato, too, referred to music as “the medicine of the soul”. In recent years, several studies have confirmed that music can be incorporated as a supplement to other forms of medical treatment, as it helps individuals cope with their stress and can also mobilise the body’s capacity to heal. Practitioners are known to use the therapeutic value of music to treat conditions such as asthma, autism, depression, as well as extreme brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.

Music therapy is a prolonged process, mentions Jyoti Sharma, a Dwarka-based music therapist and founder of Music Therapy India. “It starts with an assessment of the patient, getting to know their problems, their likes and dislikes in music, and then customising each session as per the goal. It is very client-centric and the procedure differs from person to person. It takes a while to build a rapport with the patient, which is why a minimum of five sessions are a must,” explains the 36-year-old.

More than just therapy
Patients seeking music therapy can address their issues through the process. But that’s not all. The benefits of music therapy are manifold; this approach can help people unwind and relax. Mumbai resident Raksha Shah has been suffering from depression and memory loss. In 2020, she began taking virtual music therapy sessions with Sharma. “It has really helped me cope with depression and anxiety, and has given me confidence as well. Initially, I was very reluctant about attending these sessions, but it has given me a sense of calm and a lot of support,” shares the 68-year-old.

However, Shah mentions that the best part about music therapy is that she gets to sing in front of people, a hobby she wished to pursue since childhood. “I like singing but never got to do it. Here, they teach us singing and music and also let us try so it is very enjoyable,” she adds. Similarly, Dr Vasant Shetty (78), a general physician who has been taking therapy along with Shah from Sharma, concludes, “It has helped improve my general health and sleep. But most importantly, in every session, we practise different ragas, work on diction and tone… it has been a very positive experience for me.” 

Tunes of therapy
Music therapist, Dr Shambhavi Das has a 2019 study that suggests the future of music therapy in India is promising because “people are opting for non-invasive systems of alternative medicine”.  Das concludes, “The recent scientific research in the areas of mental ailments...has thrown open a new endorsement for the ancient concepts of therapeutic values in sound and music.”

A number of healthcare professionals are now harnessing the power of music, which is an art form as well as a therapeutic tool that holds extraordinary promise, in helping people cope with both mental and physical illnesses 

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