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Music therapy and mental health

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis of our time and the most serious challenge since World War 2. The lockdown since the outburst of this virus has led to a global increase in mental health issues. The isolation, seclusion and economic turmoil have led to a dramatic increase in psychological distress like anxiety, fear, worry and separation anxiety. Due to the economic turmoil, a lot of people have lost their jobs hence leading to a loss of their livelihood which has given rise to the feeling of hopelessness among many.

During these difficult times, one needs to find their escape, to free themselves and to find a distraction from this debacle surrounding them. Music is an escape for many people. As Pablo Casals once said, “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful poetic things to the heart”. Music is a beautiful melody with words that reaches the heart and lets one connect with themselves. For some, music works wonders in concentrating better while studying, following a schedule, and serves as a wonderful accompaniment while painting, reading books and other leisure activities.

Music therapy is clinical and evidence-based use, to amplify work performance, conduct therapies, ease out emotions, etc. by professionals who have completed a recognized music therapy program. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Listening to music increases people’s motivation to become engaged in their work and provides an outlet for the expression of feelings.

Music creates an outlet for shared interests and brings people together. Families bond over engaging rhythmic upbeat music, dance on functions and get-togethers, leading to elated mood levels. Music is also a source of artistic creation, which develops divergent thinking and sound decision-making skills. Even pregnant mothers listen to soft soothing music, to inculcate calmness and better cognitive development in their child. Music acts as a form of nonverbal communication amongst people. There is different music for every mood, be that sad, or happy, or love or strength. All these emotions are intermixed with music. It also helps us cope when we feel low, or gives us that extra boost, to begin a brighter new day.

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A study conducted in 2013 showed how participants were made to listen to music in three different conditions, before being exposed to a stressful event and then taking a psychological test. Some listened to relaxing music, some listened to the sound of rippling water, while others received no auditory stimulation. Results showed that those who listened to music had a positive effect on the human stress response, as compared to those who received no auditory stimulation. Studies have also found that music can help a person sleep better.

During such unprecedented times, listening to music might be one of the only things that can help individuals to break away from the everlasting state of hopelessness. This is the time for one to pick an old instrument hidden in some part of the house, and display their talents and cultivate them not only as a way to develop a hobby but also as a way towards self-care. Engaging in learning an instrument, helps the human being connect with the sounds around them, on a deeper level. The tones, rhythm, tempo, and flow, all seem to be aligned with what the person feels when they hear music. Music emotes what the person feels. If someone is shy about their feelings, music is a beautiful source to explore expression. 

In itself, music has huge advantages for better mental health. It reduces anxiety and depression, promotes relaxation and resilience to stress. Music is a language in itself. COVID-19 is a scary disease, however, it is our time to shoot it away by remaining positive and finding an escape through music or any other escape one might have, to remain mentally fit and calm. So, let the music be a melody towards better mental health during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.

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