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Does music therapy help relieve stress?

Created for CMS 120

Fri, Dec 1st 2017 06:35 pm
By Kathryn Arnold
Being a college student is never easy. It might feel like homework is never ending and you have a test every other week. 
For current Niagara University sophomore, Sean Carrigan, that is especially true. So, "I usually listen to music either after I take a test or any stressful moment that I have in order to keep my stress levels down" he said.
Listening to music is one of the methods that most college students turn to in order to keep their stress levels at a minimum throughout their rigorous course studies.
 "I'm a biology major, so I usually find myself staying up late into the night, because of all of the homework that I have. I need some type of stress relief and music is one of my main outlets," Carrigan said.
In a research article titled "Music as Therapy," written by the Southern Medical Association, it states listening to music is directly beneficial for neuronal activity in humans and animals. It is noted that steady patterns are especially helpful, because it helps keep the rhythm of the heart at a constant pattern.
"On a national level, all college students tend to have pretty high stress levels," said Niagara University's director of counseling services, Jeannine Suk. "From my professional understanding, music therapy is extraordinarily helpful. We also look at nutrition, wellness, spirituality, physical fitness, mindfulness, meditation, positive self talk among other things as a way to help students relieve stress."
Types of Music
The type of music one listens to is essential to the varying stress level increase or decrease that they will experience. In one study conducted by the Southern Medical Association, adults and teenagers were exposed to four different types of music, including classical, grunge rock, new age and designer. After, each person was evaluated and asked about their personal feelings on each genre of music.
  • Classical music decreased stress levels, but did not change the feelings of each person.
  • Grunge rock led to an increase in hostility, fatigue, sadness and tension, and had a decrease in vigor and sense of compassion.
  • With new age music, there was an increase in relaxation and a reduction in hostility and tension.
  • After listening to designer music, most of the test subjects said they felt significantly more relaxed and had a dramatic decrease in sadness and fatigue.
From this study, it was inferred the type of music one listens to has a significant effect on stress levels.
Additional Facts
Besides relieving stress, listening to music also has many other benefits, such as relief of pain in medical patients. Playing music after a surgical procedure has shown to reduce pain and the amount of sedatives usually needed. In another study provided by the Southern Medical Association, 17 patients were exposed to live harp music. These patients showed significantly less medication was needed.
In an additional study, provided again by the Southern Medical Association, 311 gynecologic surgery patients who received music therapy, compared to patients who didn't receive it, also had a significant decrease in the amount of medication they would have needed.
In these studies, using music as a way to relieve stress and pain was proven effective. Music therapy is used in a large range of areas that has lowered pain levels, enabled people to take less medication and have shorter examination visits, which overall reduced stress in medical patients and the everyday citizen.
Moreover, women who are in labor and listen to soft music reported less distress; older adults who listened to music for a set amount of time each day noticed decreased chronic pain; cancer patients who listened to music had some moderate pain relief; and the majority of people who had experienced nausea due to bone marrow transplants said the symptoms decreased.
People who are experiencing the end of their life, in particular, use music to help them cope with the emotional aspect of death. It helps them communicate with their loved ones in a nonverbal way, which is very sentimental. Music therapy has also helped old memories to emerge along with a period of self-reflection. This helps relieve stress in elderly people as they come to terms with the ending of their life.
Music therapy is primarily used to enhance the quality of one's thoughts and emotions through something other than using words.
At Berklee, a prestigious college of music located in Boston, faculty train students to work in diverse situations in order to one day perform their job properly. A major part of their programs is working with the surrounding community. This includes medical facilities, mental health facilities, nursing homes and school and educational programs. One aspect of the college experience is to research other ways in which music therapy can help the quality of people's lives. Through the help of student and faculty members, the college continues to better its program through this research.

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