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The Restorative Power of Music

Music has always been a universal language with the power to heal, restore and challenge an individual. The history of music dates back to the beginning of civilization and music therapy came along a few thousand years later. Music therapy first became popular in the late 1940s, a few years after World War 2 and the beginning of what we now call “The Hippie Movement”. It has been proven to help patients self-sooth, reduce muscle tension, decrease anxiety while increasing self-awareness and self-confidence, increasing verbalization and the patient’s overall view of themselves and their future. In today’s world, there are many stories of how music has helped patients through their recovery period who suffered from a mental or physical illness.

Music Therapy and Mental Illness

One in five adults in the US suffer from mental illness in a given year, which is approximately 43.8 million Americans. Despite such a large percentage of Americans who suffer from mental illness there hasn’t been much progress in effectively treating the root cause instead of only the symptoms. Music therapy bridges the gap between medication and alternative therapy. The Nordoff-Robins approach to music therapy focuses on helping patients with autism, mental disorder, and emotional disturbances to increase their interaction with others while decreasing harmful tendencies and triggers.

Follow the Music

A recent study in 2017 discussed the methods in which music therapy helped to improve the emotional and rational tendencies of people with schizophrenia. The study went on to discuss the benefits of music therapy for other mental disorders like depression and anxiety.  There is now a close correlation to an improvement in social and emotional skills to the various types of music therapy available for treatment. Mental Illness advocates and patients alike have supported the growth and progress of some of the largest music concerts all over the world. These moments of music appreciation has established a greater understanding of the healing power of music.

The Results

Music Therapy works due to the release of dopamine in the brain causing you to feel a sense of reward thus increasing your mood and desire to engage with others. A randomized controlled study in 2008 on Music Therapy for Depression indicated the potential for music therapy to lower symptoms of depression while improving overall mood. Further studies in 2016 supported this claim and extended it to anxiety disorders and some personality disorders as well. Results show that patients who have been exposed to several sessions of music therapy showed a significant improvement with coping skills and their overall self-image.

Beyond the Study

Music therapy has long proven its ability to reduce the symptoms of certain mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders and many more. Future studies hope to acquire more diverse data samples and cross-analysis them with studies on introducing music to children in negative environments. These studies hope to prove and expand the understanding of how music is able to alleviate certain symptoms in the brain.

6 Nutrition Tips to Protect Your Brain and Balance Your Mood

With 25 percent of adults and 10 percent of children experiencing mental illness each year and major depression burgeoning into a leading cause of disability around the world, it’s easy to feel stressed about the state of stress. However, recent research is revealing a new line of defense against mood disorders that’s a little bit different from the traditional approach of medication and therapy: the diet.

A growing body of data suggests our gut health directly influences brain development and mental health. It’s believed that the microorganisms residing in human guts, known as the microbiome, impact the generation and metabolization of neurotransmitters like mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine, along with other neuroactive chemicals.

Unfortunately, when people are experiencing mental illness or otherwise feeling down, they’re far more likely to reach for comfort foods that are high in fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates than health food. But it turns out that comfort foods aren’t so comforting after all: Simple carbohydrates and processed foods have been shown to increase the risk of depression, while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods seem to protect the brain.

So if you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mood problems, and want to stop them before larger problems occur (or, if you just want to help prevent these issues from starting in the first place), how can you tailor your diet for a healthy brain?

  • Limit alcohol consumption. While it’s tempting to reach for a glass of wine after a tough day, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to addiction and actually exacerbate mood disorders by interfering with the body’s metabolization of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s critical in the production of serotonin.
  • Stick to complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like sugar, corn syrup, and refined grains cause blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to mood swings and brain fog. And while simple carbohydrates can provide a short-term serotonin boost, complex carbs like legumes, whole grains, and fibrous vegetables are much more effective at providing your brain lasting, stable serotonin.
  • Eat tryptophan. In order for carbohydrates to effectively boost serotonin, they need to be consumed alongside tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted into serotonin, and you’ll find it in proteins like turkey, duck, eggs, and beef.
  • Get your vitamins. Deficiencies of B12, folate, selenium, and vitamin D have all been linked to higher rates of mood disorders like depression. To make sure you’re getting enough of these important nutrients, consume plenty of seafood, lean meats, dairy, and eggs (B12, selenium, and vitamin D), and legumes, nuts, and dark leafy greens (folate). And spend plenty of time outdoors, even in the winter months, because sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D. Supplements can be a great tool, especially for vegetarians and vegans, but too much selenium and vitamin D can be toxic, so consult with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
  • Look for antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants have been connected to reduced cognitive decline and cancer risk, and evidence suggests that they can even help with moods. Deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables like berries, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and carrots are all great sources of antioxidants, as are nuts, whole grains, legumes, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Consume probiotics. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium have been shown to reduce anxiety-like behavior in mice, and scientists believe the mood-enhancing benefits of these probiotic bacteria extend to humans. And while these beneficial bacteria may be difficult to pronounce, they’re easy to find. Look for fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha that contain active cultures.

Eating well can go a long way toward promoting good mental health, whether you’re currently experiencing a mood disorder or just want to protect your cognition as you age. And while diet alone may not be enough to manage a mental illness, it’s an invaluable tool in the fight for a healthy, happy brain.


Image via Pixabay by Foundry