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Music And Health: What Can Music Do For Your Mental Health?

Quick Study: What Can Music Do For Your Mental Health?

When most of us turn on the radio or slip on our headphones, we aren't consciously seeking a way to make ourselves happier — but that is often exactly what we get.

"You can tell immediately if you’re listening to something that’s working for you — either you’re going to tap your toe or feel a little more light-hearted," explains music therapist Jennifer Buchanan.

Buchanan works with patients from all walks of life, using music to allow them achieve their specific goals, whether it's children with autism who are getting help with speech, office workers who'd like to incorporate music into their daily lives to help with the stress of work, and or even those who are dying and want to put together a "musical journey" of their lives by which to be remembered.

"Music quickly taps into our rewards centres in our brain," says Buchanan. "What happens is for most of us in seconds, we will release hormones into our system, like dopamine, which will help us feel good, oxytocin, which will help us trust people and serotonin, which can help us sleep. It all depends on the tune."

While optimistic about iPods and other devices that allow music to be so portable, Buchanan is a big believer in the quality of sound, acting as a spokesperson for Marantz, the high-end speaker systems that "feel live, exactly the way the music and artist intended," as well as Future Shop, where they're sold. She emphasizes the importance of taking the time to sit and really listen to music, instead of just using it as background noise.

So how can the average person incorporate music in this positive into their own lives? Check out these 9 ways to create your own music therapy session:

How To Figure Out It's Working

How To Do Your Own Music Therapy

How To Figure Out It's Working

Look to your body to know if the music you're listening to is helping your mood. "Either you’re going to tap your toe or feel a little more light-hearted," says music therapist Jennifer Buchanan. "We look for those gestures, or ask people straight out, "Is this making you feel better?"

What If I Hate Music?

"If someone doesn’t like music, my biggest question is, what could that mean?" says Buchanan. "Music is incredibly evocative, and it makes you feel something quickly, and sometimes it makes certain people feel too much too fast." Buchanan suggests going slow because you don’t want to cause any stress and being sure to use good quality of sound.

Find Music For Motivation

"Music that motivates us is actually music that inspires us first," explains Buchanan. "It doesn’t have to do with the tempo, it has to do with how your body is physically reacting to the music."

So it's not all about blaring techno to get yourself pumped for that run, but instead, any song that you find inspiring, whether it's hip hop or a ballad.

How To Find New Music

Buchanan advises looking at the kind of music you already like, and asking "If I like this, who else would I like?" of those who know music well. Don't be afraid to try new genres and types.

How To Play Music At The Office

"This can become a team-building exercise, where you’ll going to decide when you need music," says Buchanan. She suggests playing music at key spots in the day, for example, turning it on 15 minutes before an important meeting to set the tone, or toward the end of the day so that not only does it signal that it's time to go home, but also sending employees home happier.

Getting Out Of A Rut

"If people are still listening to the same music they listened to when they were teens, again I would say, 'What does that mean?'" says Buchanan, noting it often means they haven't moved away from that time. "If the person is not assessing himself, then it’s not going to mean a lot. It's the same thing as saying ‘I know I need to lose weight,’ but until I make the choice to do that, I won’t be able to."

Stay Away From The Sad Stuff

While listening to music that made you weep may have seemed like a good idea in your teens, Buchanan says it won't help with your mental health now. "If there’s a negative time in your life with music from it, I advise people to stay away from it," she says.

Create The Right Playlists

"We want people to want people to create emotion-based playlists where they’re feeling good, feeling less stressed," explains Buchana. "We want people to realize it’s more than just entertainment."

How To Chill Out

"Music between 60 and 80 beats per minute, it doesn’t matter the genre, that’s the music that’s going to help us slow down," says Buchanan. She says counting it out will help you find the right tunes to calm yourself down.

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