PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Music can make you cry, laugh, feel excited or angry. It’s a powerful medium that can be used as a tool if we know how to use it. Experts say music can improve our mood and even change behavior.
It all starts when the music goes in our ears and right to our brain, lighting up all different parts.
“You’re seeing areas involved (in the brain) with movement, memory, emotion, planning, taking action,” says Bob Miller, a music therapist at Western Psychiatric Institute of UMPC.
He says music can affect us emotionally and physically, even reducing stress.
“It can affect our heart rate a little bit. It can affect our breathing rate,” Miller says. “It can help to even participate in singing, and music can help reduce stress hormones and to increase levels of hormones like dopamine or serotonin that can really help us feel better.”
Music can also change your mood.
If you want to relax, pick the right music — something that has a slower tempo, repetition — either in the melody or the background or beat. That helps us disengage so we don’t have to pay attention to it.
And if there are words, it helps to find something in another language so you are not thinking about what the words are saying. If you had a hard day, you can choose music to help you work through that on your drive home.
Miller says you could start with angry or intense music to get out any negative energy and then use other music to bring you to whatever state of mind you’re looking for — relaxed, upbeat.
Music can even be used as medicine. Trained occupational therapists use music to help kids with special needs, like autism and developmental delays. Jami Dantry and Amy Demi use “The Listening Program” with children at schools in Follansbee, West Virginia.
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Developed by Advanced Brain Technologies, “The Listening Program” creates music with certain frequencies to improve your brain.
“We have had a lot of success with programs with help skills like communication, attention, sound sensitivities,” Demi says.
The kids listen 15 minutes a day, five days a week.
Alexis Obeldobel, 7, says, “I like the sound of the instruments.”
Her Mom says it works for her three children who are using the program.
“I can tell the behavior, they’re much calmer and more focused when they do listen,” she said.
Damien Maine, 7, also likes to listen. His mom, Jennifer, loves the program.
She says, “He’s actually able to sit down and focus on something and deal with outside noises and not have a problem thinking, listening and writing.”
“The Listening Program” works for adults, too, whether they want to improve executive function or reduce stress.
Dantry, who uses it for the kids she helps at the school, tried it herself.
“I know for me, I’m a high stress person, and it made me a lot more calm, able to deal with things on a daily basis easier than I typically would,” she said.
The Listening program is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is used across the country and must be through a licensed and trained occupational therapist.