May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to shine a spotlight on ways in which we can better care for our mental health. By opening the conversation around mental health, we are breaking the stigma and transforming the connotation around mental healthcare into something that is celebrated, openly discussed, and viewed as something that is important for everyone. As new research becomes available, mental healthcare is evolving to include many new practices. Scientists are exploring and verifying new treatment options for various mental health conditions that extend beyond traditional talk therapy and prescribed pharmaceuticals. Some of these treatments involve the use of sound and music in various ways to achieve a state of mental well-being. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we will explore three ways that music and sound are being used to treat mental health conditions.
1. Drum Circles
The drum is the oldest instrument on the planet; it has been used since the beginning of time across various cultures. In certain African traditions, the drum is known to be a healing instrument and is used to invoke healing. In these traditions, when a person begins to show signs of mental instability, they create a drum circle and have the person stand in the middle and stomp their feet. This is known to help ground the person back into reality and an overall state of well-being. This sort of ceremony has been practiced for centuries; however, scientists are just beginning to confirm and even recommend drum circles as an option for addressing various mental health concerns. Some of the benefits of community drumming include stress reduction, balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain, boosted immune system, a breakdown of social barriers, and much more. Research by the Royal College of Music found that drumming has a positive impact on mental health. Their studies demonstrated that a 10-week program of group drumming reduced depression by as much as 38% and anxiety by 20%.
Photo by Lee Pigott via Unplash
If you are looking for a fun and energizing way to combat stress, anxiety, or depression, group drumming might be for you. For more information on the power of the drum, see our recent article: The Neuroscience of Drumming
2. Music Therapy
Music Therapy is an alternative form of therapy that uses music and sound to help guide a person into a state of well-being. Music therapy can be a very personal experience, as the music therapist often tailors their music selection to the individual needs of the patient. There are many music therapy methods, and techniques vary from therapist to therapist; however, the overall result of the practice is consistent.
Music therapy helps the individual to express emotions while producing a state of mental relaxation, and consequently, it can be beneficial in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety, while enhancing interpersonal relationships (Lavinia Rebecchini)
For more information on music therapy, check out our recent blog on Music Therapy for Creators and the recent Project Immersed episode on Digital Music Therapy.
Grammy-nominated composer Silvia Nakkach discusses in her book Free Your Voice the power of not only speaking our emotions, but singing them. Researchers examined the benefits of singing among people with mental health conditions including anxiety and depression, and found that participants either maintained or improved their mental health when participating in community singing. Using the voice in this way has a positive effect for many reasons. One of the most obvious is that singing naturally causes us to breathe. Singing involves deep inhalations and sustained exhalations which stimulate the vagus nerve and have a positive effect on our nervous system and overall health. Learn more about the benefits of breath and the vagus nerve in our recent article: What Is The Vagus Nerve?
Mental healthcare is not limited to those with advanced mental health conditions. Everyone can benefit from developing a practice that maintains and improves one’s mental health. With new research that continues to become available, it is becoming easier to find mental healthcare practices that are the right fit for each individual person. Do you have a mental health practice that involves music and sound that is working well for you? Let us know by hitting us up at firstname.lastname@example.org