Music is the breath of life

[Reading time: 4 minutes]

Written by Sofia Iacopino and Sofia Mascioli from Calabria 

In the teenage world, music is considered one of the most popular ways to escape from the stressful routine and from life’s little everyday problems. People listen to music to open their mind and to give space to their feelings. It’s also used to concentrate and to find inspiration as we work.Over the course of history, however, scientists have discovered that music can have many others beneficial effects, such as helping people to eat less, enhancing blood vessel function and improving cognitive performance.

In particular, studies by the American Music Therapy Association recently confirmed that listening to music is extraordinarily beneficial in enabling people to accept their illness and to manage symptoms of debilitating diseases such as cancer.

Right now you might just be asking yourself why two high school students like us chose a topic as serious as this. The time has come to explain our decision!
We are two future doctors, or at least we hope so! And it just so happens that we love music too. Consequently we thought that it might be fascinating to explain the extraordinary qualities of music not only when a girlfriend/boyfriend cruelly breaks our heart or when we argue with our parents, but even during those traumatic periods when illness strikes. When a person discovers that they have a tumour, it fundamentally shakes the very core of his or her life. Even the patient’s family and friends have an uphill battle ahead. They are filled with a myriad of swirling emotions like oppression, anxiety and depression. They feel lonely and they are racked with uncertainty over about how their life will play out from that point on. So they need an outlet to relax, release anxiety and lift up their spirits.
To this end, in recent years many hospitals have adopted music as an additional support to medical therapy and they have used it to take care of the patient’s psychological wellbeing.
In our region, Calabria, there are a lot of collaborations between associations and hospitals to organise music therapy events. For example “tarantella” comes to Cosenza’s hospital!
Music therapy is a growing practise that can be applied in both passive and active ways. In the former case, the patient simply listens to his favourite music. This can help significantly in reducing anxiety and fear before surgery, or to decrease nausea and difficulty in breathing during chemotherapy. As for active therapy, it creates a personal experience with music such as playing an instrument or singing.

The most important aim of music therapy is to improve the mood of the patient and his family, who often don’t have the power to fight against the illness. An experimental study was conducted at Imam Khomeini Hospital in Urmia city in 2014 to analyse the effects of music and sounds in patients that had to face these types of emotions. Sixty patients were divided in two groups: one group listened to music for 20 minutes for three days and the other did not. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) then examined the collected data.
They showed a huge decrease in stress, anxiety, pain and fear in those patients that had listened to therapeutic sounds. This contrasted greatly with the other group, for which the source found no improvement of the symptoms. This experimental study proved what many have long suspected, namely that music has extraordinarily beneficial effects in terms of the management of feelings and sensations.
Music therapy is easy to use. It is cheap and has no collateral effects. Basically, anyone can make use of it and avail of its its advantages. For all this reasons, hospitals in USA and increasingly throughout the world have started introducing sound therapy to nursing care services.

We conducted a short survey, asking 41
of our schoolmates what they think about music effects on their everyday mood.

The results confirm that music plays an important role in our life. We all agree that listening to our favourite genre of music raise our spirits even when we have to wake up at 7 a.m. and goto school! As for the genres of music that we prefer, as we expected we saw that pop is certainly the favourite for our generation.

As a matter of fact, 59% of our schoolmates say that they usually listen to pop songs. As we said before, the data confirms that listening to music serves as a portal in letting loose our emotions, which makes us feel better. The survey also shows that 95% of teenagers think that music is a perfect instrument to overcome the tough times. For this reason, 83% of them actually stated that listening to music is necessary, even during periods of illness, as a positive means of confronting the challenges faced.

Unfortunately, we don’t know too much about medicine yet, nonetheless when writing this article we had a specific aim in our minds: to stress the point that music is not only a group of notes and words, but is rather an implicit part of each of us as individuals.
Music can express personality and show our frame of mind. It can help everybody in difficult situations and in those dark painful moments of life. Perhaps even more than usual as our need is greater. To our minds, then, music is like a key that we can use to escape from reality and go to another world that only we know. As opposed to being treated as an additional extra, maybe it is time to embrace the phenomenal power of music, the universal language, and to apply it to all walks of life. The smiles on the faces of ill patients absorbed in music speak volumes in this sense. Long live music, then, as a tonic for the troops and a connector to our inner selves!

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