Courtsey of istockphoto.
Music as we know it today has evolved over many centuries and can be said to be as old as man himself.
Most ancient cultures like those of Greece, Rome, China, India and Africa used songs accompanied with local instruments and dances to celebrate births, weddings, seasons and commiserate over funerals. Music entertains, teaches and connects people.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.’’- Victor Hugo
In my country, the Baganda- an ancient kingdom on the shores of Lake Nalubaale/Victoria, have used drums, xylophones, flutes and lyres in the Buganda Court Music, community communication and in rituals.
Studies done by neuro physicians and music therapists of our time have proved that listening to music exercises our brains- it stimulates the brain, connects the right (logic)and the left(creative) sides producing a total brain work out. You have to engage almost all areas of your brain to make sense of the music.
As a result of the workout :
• The heart rate slows down
• The blood pressure goes down
• The Stress hormone: Cortisol , level in the blood goes down
• The brain produces more Dopamine, Serotonin, endorphins- the ‘ Feel good hormones’. It elevates the mood of each individual, gets you excited, relaxes muscles, calms and relaxes you.
Human beings have five major senses: Vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Using High Resolution foetal Ultrasound, it has been revealed that the baby growing in the womb can smell the amniotic fluid surrounding it by 10 weeks of the pregnancy.
It can hear by 18 weeks of pregnancy. It can hear the mother’s heartbeat. Between 27-29 weeks, the foetus can hear some sounds outside the mother’s womb like her voice though muffled. The mother’s voice becomes clearer as the brain matures. The foetus responds to the sounds heard by changes in its heart rate, breathing and movements. Music psychology researchers have shown that playing music , talking and reading to the growing baby helps to develop the baby’s hearing, memory and emotions.
Studies done by Sleep coaches show that adequate sleep of 7-8 hours a day promotes good health and plays a big role in the control of chronic infections and mental health illnesses like depression.
During sleep, the body repairs itself and the Immune system detects and eliminates molecules and cells that display foreign antigens and altered self-antigens or evidence of cellular damage.
The Immune cells kill germs and contain the infection – promoting healing and recovery. Adequate sleep promotes the health of the Immune system. Inadequate sleep is associated with changes in the Immunity. It increases infectious disease risk, causes slow healing of injuries and recurrent infections.
Having less than five hours of quality sleep is associated with morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke over time.
Those aged 65 years and above, are most vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer due to the natural ageing of the Immune system.
Listening to soft music of 60-70 decibels has shown to boost sleep quality and quantity.
It makes you feel happy, relaxed and lowers the stress hormone, Cortisol, levels.
For generations, parents have been singing lullabies to children to help them go to sleep.
“ In my solitude, I sing to myself a sweet lullaby, as sweet as my mother used to sing to me.’’- Albert Cohen
Soft music distracts us from the troubles of the day, helps our bodies to relax and to fall asleep.
For a normal adult, listening to music from another era or genre challenges your brain more than listening to the old and familiar. Struggling to understand the new sound works out the brain. I can compare it to trying out the difficult crossword after the easy one or elevating yourself from the Sudoku to the Mudoku number-placement puzzle.
I for one listen to some good gospel music regularly as I drift off to sleep. Sometimes, I wake up much later to switch off the music.
In the last one month, I have had two close relatives seriously sick in Intensive Care Unit at two different hospitals in Kampala.
In an attempt to promote their recovery, we have had to play some music to them . It helps to stimulate both sides of the brain , giving it a total work out. It is believed that as we grow, each one develops her /his favourite music. We had to look for their type of music- songs known and of meaning to them to jog their memories.
According to the healthharvard.edu website, such music activates the memory centre , the emotional one and motor( movements). The electric activity of the brain measured during this time of stimulation is increased.
“ Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.’’– Debasish Mridha
Interestingly, touch and hearing are the last senses to lose function in a dying patient.
“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’’- Plato
Archives show that Formal Music Therapy has been used to treat soldiers recovering from the effects of war in Army hospitals in USA since 1945, after the Second World War. It helped the soldiers to heal psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively and socially. It took the forms of listening, singing, playing instruments or composing music.
Since then, Music therapy services have gained significance in accomplishing individualised goals like reducing stress, improving mood and self-expression.
Research studies have shown that people of all backgrounds, ages and cultures can respond to music and music therapy in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, mental health centres, outpatient clinics, prisons, juvenile detention centres and homes. Through involvement in music your abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of your life.
“Where words fail, music speaks.’’– Hans Christian Anderson
Next time you listen to music, appreciate and enjoy it for all what it is: a universal language, a powerful tool of communication, relevant to our physical and mental health and essential to the function of our society and culture.
How often do you turn to your favourite music or write songs or poetry to comfort yourself when facing a big challenge?