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9 Ways Music Can Cure Depression, Drug Addiction and Stop Suicide

9 Ways Music Can Cure Depression, Drug Addiction and Stop Suicide

You know it the second you hear the first notes. It’s that one special song that makes your spine tingle. You can feel the tears welling up in your eyes.

How does that happen? Only seven notes can come together to form a soul-moving melody that can break your heart, make you cry, and bring back buried, long-forgotten memories.

Music is powerful.


1. Music helps you work through your problems

Often during your darkest nights, you can’t find a way through the muddy alleyways of your mind. Good news! Don’t just lie there, turn on Google play and let the music flow into you. If you cry, that’s OK. Tears represent feelings that must be expressed. Feeling is healing.

Music helps you express your emotions. It’s melodic encouragement that helps you let go of suppressed feelings. A study published in the British Journal showed that music is cathartic, especially drumming. You didn’t need a medical study to prove that. You discovered that yourself when you were a 4 year-old banging on your mother’s pots and pans.

2. Music inspires creativity

Do you need to write a blog, run faster on the treadmill, or design a new website but can’t because you’re feeling uninspired? Pump up the jam. Music will motivate you. Go ahead, try to sit still while listening to Avicii sing Wake Me Up, it’s just not possible.

Finnish researchers found that the mind-wandering mode goes into action when your brain processes a song, thus inspiring creativity. These rewards don’t only happen to artists: Techies also benefit from the relaxing effect of music.

Professor Gold (one of the Finnish researchers) who conducted the study said, “Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care including medication, psychotherapy and counseling, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety. Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way – even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.”

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3. Music affects your breathing

Music has the power to speed up your heartbeats or slow down your breathing. Musicians beware! You respond differently than the rest of us.

Anyone can feel the music. Your foot starts tapping as your body sways from side to side. Who hasn’t been to a concert when you felt the bass beating in your chest? There is scientific proof behind it.

A slow, meditative tempo has a relaxing effect slowing your heart rate and breathing while faster music with an upbeat tempo speeds up your heart rate and respiration.

You are can be in charge of your body, simply by choosing which songs you listen to. Next time you’re feeling anxious, when your heart starts to race, grab your headset and listen to Zen Garden.

4. Music can reduce blood pressure

Here’s the prescription: Listen to classical, Celtic or reggae music 30 minutes a day to lower your blood pressure. According to the American Society of Hypertension, research shows this simple prescription might significantly reduce high blood pressure.

In a report from Dr. Peter Sleight at the University of Oxford, research has shown “music can alleviate stress, improve athletic performance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients with stroke or Parkinson’s disease, and even boost milk production in cattle.”

Don’t throw away your medication yet, but music is certainly an easier pill to take.


5. Music is used to treat addiction

Music therapy can be of great value in treating addiction. It is certainly not enough by itself to help someone recover from substance abuse, but it can be a useful tool in the treatment process.

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Addiction is a painful disease that affects the entire family and circle of friends. Making the decision to enter rehab is the first step towards recovery. Help is available and new methods of treatment are continually being discovered.

Thamkrabok is a Buddhist temple in Thailand offering free treatment to for addiction. Music plays an important role at the temple because of its therapeutic powers. The monks of Thamkrabok even have their own recording studio.  Tim Arnold, the UK musician made a whole album there.

Sobriety is an emotional roller coaster. Music (either playing it or listening to it) may help people get rid of some of their destructive emotions.

6. Music might prevent suicide

The sound of music is incredibly powerful. It can even prevent suicide.

IN 1997, DMC aka Darrell McDaniels, of Run DMC, was at the top of the charts. While touring he fell into a negative downward spiral, thinking Is this all there is?

He was serious. At that moment, he made a decision to commit suicide when he got home.

Staring at the walls in a cold hotel room, Sarah McLachlan’s song “Angel” came on the radio. You know it’s power. It makes you cry and want to run out and adopt one of those sad animals in the SPCA commercial.

It’s hard to believe, but that song changed his suicide plan. He became a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan. Soon after, he found out he was adopted, which gave his life new meaning.

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After DMC trashed his suicide plan, he made a new plan to use his music and fame to decided to promote adoption and help foster kids. He even made a documentary to promote his worthy cause.

7. Music in the operating room

Did you know doctors have a specific playlist for different types of surgery?

 Anthony Youn, M.D. cites a study published in “Surgical Endoscopy” that found classical music affected surgeons more positively than hard rock or heavy metal.

Oddly, another study published by “Surgical Innovation” noted surgeons’ performances benefitted most from hip-hop and reggae the music. Go figure!

Dr. Youn says, “It probably comes down to taste, with surgeons finding comfort and inspiration working to the music they like to hear.”

Doctors aren’t the only ones affected. Several studies show that patients appear more relaxed, require less anesthesia, and recover quicker when physicians play tunes in the OR.

Nearly 80% of operating room support staff believed music had a positive effect on their work as well. I wonder if the remaining 20% wear noise-cancelling headphones.

Who knows what the future of the OR will bring? Maybe there’ll be a DJ taking requests for your favorite spins.

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8.  Music reduces pain

Whether it’s Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, or Jason Mraz, the lyrics and melodies they write and sing can be effective therapy for managing pain. According to a paper in the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing, listening to music can reduce chronic pain from a range of painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis, by up to 21%. That’s a lot when you’re hurting.

Music is a distraction that gives the patient a sense of control. Music causes the body to release endorphins, which counteract pain.

9. Music jars your memory

Beware: Handle music with care. Some songs put you in a time machine and set you back to painful times. Hopefully, when you get there, you will remember the lessons you learned, see how much you have grown and how much better you are doing since leaving those sad times behind you. Leaving those memories allows you to open your heart to new adventures.

So next time you make your playlist, choose carefully, those songs are going deep into your soul. They might inspire you to create a new start-up, stop drinking so much, become a triathete, or fall in love.

There’s no doubt about it. Those seven notes can change your life.

Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com_IMG_7432.jpg

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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