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Using Music for Healing and Stress Management

United Spinal Association of Northeast Ohio > BLOG > Connections Newsletter Article > Using Music for Healing and Stress Management

By Dan Nwosu and Megan Hammond

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato

I want you to take a moment and imagine listening to your favorite songs from your childhood/teenage years. How does it make you feel? Can you hear your heart beating a little faster? Can you sense the goosebumps forming on your arms? Can you feel yourself transported to a place beyond where you are right now? If your answer was, Yes, to any of those questions, then you have just experienced what Dan likes to call “Brainforia.”

Did you know that almost every part of your brain is impacted by music? Listening to, or making music, stimulates blood flow in our brain, into the limbic system, which generates and controls emotions.  Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

It can also*:

Change your ability to perceive time

Taps into your primal fear

Reduce seizures

Improve Communication

Make You Stronger

Boost Your Immune System

Assist in Repairing Brain Damage

Make You Smarter

Evoke Memories

As mentioned above, music can ease pain, promote healing, and reduce physical and emotional stress. Music offers an experience that is meant to enhance the human experience and often escape from the stresses of the physical world. If paired with occupational therapy, or just everyday exercises, one can experience increased range of motion, increased mood, and overall a better outlook on life. Research has also shown the therapeutic aspects of integrating music into one’s life can accelerate healing and recuperation. 

Somatic therapy techniques can be used with music to help release stuck emotions and trauma, and help to regulate the nervous systems.  Somatic therapy teaches you how to calm your nervous system from everyday stressors and tension.  These techniques include breathing exercises, dance, mindfulness exercises, and other body movement techniques.

One easy way to give somatic therapy a go is to dance.  You don’t have to learn any choreography, just let the music move your body.  This could be head nods, shoulder shrugs, wildly throwing your arms around, or showing off your fancy foot work.  No matter your ability.  It doesn’t matter what you look like, or even if it’s considered dancing.  Move your body (to the extent that you can) to the music you enjoy listening to. Pick your favorite happy song and start vibing.  “Dance like no one is watching.”

Any music that lights you up will work, and this will look different for everyone.  One study suggests that the benefits of music all depends on your personal history and the music you grew up listening to.  Different parts of the brain light up with different music.  This is activating your emotional memories, which never fade out. 

So, next time that you are exercising, in your room, or out on a walk take out those headphones, load up your favorite song, and let the music take you. Who knows, it may lead you to unexpected places. 

*Music benefits sourced from:

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