Soul food: The Healing Power of Music

Music makes the people come together…And apparently, it also makes more effective brain structure and functioning come together as well. Many inspired thinkers have testified to the incredible power of music. Plato said: Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

How many times has a particular song summed up a memory or experience more precisely and intensely than any attempted word description of it. There’s no question that music has power- to attract masses, to uplift and inspire, to speak what someone is feeling, to speak what words alone fall short to do. So what happens when we bring attention to this power as a deliberate means for healing and recovery. What are some of the powerful benefits of music, especially for healing and recovery? How can we best access the power of music to transcend our limited responses to life?

First, let’s look at a few key effects of music on mental functioning, especially as we participate in making music:

  • Studies have shown that musical training increases gray matter in the brain, as well as strengthening connections between the different parts of the brain and this growing matter.
  • Along with this increased gray matter, comes the enhancement of verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills
  • Being involved in musical collaboration increases effective contact, coordination, and cooperation with others
  • Music can have a direct effect on brain chemicals involved in a positive mood, and enhance feelings of mastery and satisfaction
  • Music increases blood flow to the brain
  • It has helped improve everyday activities for stroke victims and strengthens executive

    functioning in the brain- the key parts of the brain that are involved in processing and retaining information, making decisions, and problem-solving.

    This last point brings me to a very important piece of this positive effect for those in recovery. What is one of the biggest hindrances to functioning in the world, in the beginning, stages of recovery? Executive functioning. That’s right. So many of us, when in the throes of addiction, have found ourselves in positions of poor decision-making, poor recall for creating a new reality, and an inability to find any logical, attainable solutions to current problems. And of course, the negative effects of the substances themselves contribute to significant declines in effective functioning.

    So how beautifully appropriate that not only would a powerful form of creation have the ability to heal and uplift its receivers, but also be a force for rebuilding in the face of the destruction of addiction. Creation is an antidote to destruction, it is the polarity in a 3-dimensional world of duality, where one in the midst of a destructive past can get swept up into a positive shift in consciousness. And this creative power can be accessed across many fields of manifestation; creation of the connection, the creation of new trauma-free memories, the creation of new ways of speaking and seeing, and the creation of beautiful solo and collaborative works of art, including music. So what are some of the concrete ways that music can assist in recovery? Here are a few that I have found particularly pertinent:

  • Music can be a powerful catalyst for motivation and inspiration- to make positive choices, to think thoughts from an expanded pool of creative inspiration, to reach out, to accept from songs of relatedness, and share in a collective experience
  • It can raise up energy around mental blockages that talk therapy and rational logic may stumble upon
  • It can be a powerful distiller, bringing all focus, not only into the moment but into a depth of awareness that is unique to each individual-awareness of their own state of being, of their own desire for more, while also inspiring positive momentum to be able to take healthy steps in the direction of more: more abundance, more acceptance, more love, etc.
  • It can help bring a sensitivity to what is occurring on an emotional and mental level, to bring to light what might be resisted or otherwise difficult to reach

    So what are some of the ways we can use the powerful medium of music for positive change and healing among the recovery community? Here are a few that are used at Oasis Recovery Center, that have effectively helped to bring healing and new connections to those involved:

  • Music exploration (super simple, and done all over the world.) The simple act of listening to different music can be transformative. Letting yourself get uplifted into a higher vibration, or simply letting yourself experience more fully a shadow aspect of your experience so it can move through, is a powerful practice of opening to growth and expansion.
  • Playing music independently is a wonderfully therapeutic practice, allowing you to reap the benefits of musical creation, in a comfortable, relaxed space. The effects are the reason many take up music at a young age.
  • Collaborative musical creation is the ultimate experience of transcending personal limitations. Limitations like lack of trust, fears of vulnerability, perfectionism, control issues, may all surface and be worked through energetically in the process of collaborating to unite in musical harmony with others, whether drumming, singing, or playing another instrument,

even the simplest of instruments, this requires a brave venture into a multidimensional experience of musical healing.

There are also a host of music therapy techniques, within and around these ventures, specifically structured for optimal therapeutic goals. So whether you are taking part in the exploration of different musical creations, through listening, picking up an instrument, or singing in the shower, you can take pleasure in the simple wisdom of knowing you are contributing to your own healing, well-being, and the restoration of positively focused consciousness. <applause, applause, applause>

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