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Mozart as Medicine: The Health Benefits of Music

Mozart as Medicine: The Health Benefits of Music

David Binanay started playing the violin when he was five. By age 12, he performed at the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York City and, soon after, at the White House. In 2006, fresh from his graduation from Villanova University, Binanay was positioned perfectly to build his life around music. He moved into his own place and started a job at a high-end violin shop. That is when he noticed the bleeding.

Music and the mind

It was a gastrointestinal bleed. Binanay experienced one before and he called his mom to let her know what was happening. She wanted to help, but he stopped her. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to handle it myself,” he said. This was the first time Binanay tried to handle a serious health issue on his own. When he arrived at the hospital, things began to spiral out of control. His hands started shaking and his mind began to separate from reality. “It was my first psychotic episode,” David recalls. The situation went downhill fast. After resolving the bleeding issue and leaving the hospital, Binanay’s psychosis continued. He started having delusions and became fearful of everything. “I couldn’t even walk into a grocery store because of the fear,” he says. “I didn’t really know what I was afraid of, but I feared for my life. In the span of one week I went from being normal to having a complete psychotic breakdown.” This was the peak of his psychosis, but his battle was just beginning. He struggled with schizophrenia for the next five years. His medications worked, but he had trouble sticking to them. There was one thing, however, that always seemed to help. “My dad would look at me and say, ‘Dave, go get your violin.’”

The healing power of music

Music stopped the pain. “Every time I did play, I noticed a change,” Binanay said. “I would channel my emotions through my music. The fear would turn to music. It would turn to sound.” A new medication schedule helped too. Binanay found it much easier to stick to his medication when he switched from pills to injections, which he only needed once a month. Today, after a five-year battle, Binanay has made a full recovery. He plays his violin up to 10 hours per day and runs a non-profit, Music Over Mind, that performs free music shows at hospitals for people suffering from mental illness.

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“Music has been my catalyst for recovery,” Binanay says. “It has been a 180 degree turnaround. From complete loss to total re-birth. I recently got married. I have my own place with my wife. I feel like I’m a better person than before my illness.”

David Binanay’s story raises an interesting series of questions. Can music help heal us? What role does music play in our health and happiness? Can music be a form of medicine?

The stroke victim who was healed by music

In her book The Power of Music, author Elena Mannes shares the story of a stroke patient who lost the ability to speak. After struggling to re-learn normal speech patterns, the patient makes a breakthrough by singing her words rather than saying them. This approach is known as melodic intonation therapy and it engages the right side of the brain more than normal speech. As a result, this different section of the brain can stand in as a replacement for the normal language area and be used to communicate through song. [1]

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At first glance, this story may seem like a very specific way to combine music and health, but it actually provides a good indication of the state of music therapy. There are many stories about music being used to help Parkinson’s patients move, autistic children focus and learn, and multiple sclerosis patients reduce spasms. These stories, however, have no research studies supporting them. My guess is that these are individualized results which, although true, are difficult to extrapolate to the entire population. That said, there are a handful of health benefits of music that are well-accepted and scientifically proven.

The research: music as medicine

Music can be used to relieve pain in patients. For example, surgery patients at the Cleveland Clinic that listened to recorded music saw a four times decrease in post-surgical pain. Music is also shown to reduce the amount of anesthesia needed during operations. [2, 3]

Music can be used to relieve stress and anxiety. Calming music decreases blood pressure, steadies the heart rate, and eases stress. Research shows that music can reduce stress for patients undergoing surgeries and colonoscopies, for children undergoing medical procedures, and for patients with coronary heart disease. [4-7]

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There is also preliminary evidence showing that listening to music can boost immune system function by decreasing stress hormones and increasing growth hormones. These changes prime the body to be in a better state for recovering from and resisting illnesses, but the research is weak thus far and needs further investigation. [8]

There are a range of studies that link music to happiness and pleasure in different ways. Despite the differences in the individual studies, the scientific consensus on the topic is that music does stimulate the same areas of the brain that trigger pleasure in other activities. A range of studies find that listening to pleasurable music stimulates the mesocorticolimbic system in the brain, which is the same “pleasure center” that is triggered by humor, tasty food, and even cocaine. In this way, you could say that music is like a drug. If music makes you happy, then it might be possible that it is good for your health. [9-12] These benefits sound great, but is music unique in providing these benefits? Not really. Given the current state of the research, it is not known if music is any better at healing than other alternatives. Music is not the only way to relieve pain or reduce stress. Music might work well for Person A, while meditation is better for Person B, and deep breathing or exercise help Person C. If nothing else, however, music is another tool at your disposal when you want to relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote healing.

The limitations of music therapy

You can summarize the current state of research on the connection between music and health by saying that we know music impacts our brains and bodies, but we don’t quite understand exactly why or how music does this. And because we don’t understand the details, it can be hard to use music for healing. To be honest, part of these issues could be solved if researchers performed better studies. Right now, researchers aren’t doing themselves any favors because musical research rarely follows a typical format. Here are a few common errors (and solutions): [13]

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  1. Current research doesn’t clearly differentiate if it is the act of playing music or the act of listening to music that benefits patients. For example, if a patient gets better after playing songs on a keyboard, chanting in different tones, or singing their favorite song, is he benefiting from the musical notes or from the act of playing music? Future studies should investigate if active performance or passive listening yields better results.
  2. Current research poorly categorizes the impact of different music styles. Most researchers lump music therapy into broad “stimulating” or “relaxing” categories. Future research should include more clearly defined boundaries, so we can understand which types of music can be used to heal in specific situations.
  3. Current research flip-flops on who controls the music. Sometimes the experimenter chooses the music. Sometimes the patient chooses her own music. This can complicate things because sometimes you are more likely to see music as having a positive impact simply if you select the music. Future research should be more clear about this selection process.
  4. Current research varies between individual listening, individual playing, and group playing. In many cases, patients may benefit from simply doing an activity with a group and not the music itself. Future research should investigate these environmental factors to help clarify the impact of individual vs. group music therapy.
  5. Current research, at least what I found, was universally missing a large, randomized trial. This type of study is the gold-standard of research and if music therapy interventions are to be taken seriously, then a high quality randomized study is needed.

The health benefits of music

Whether it is a pick-me-up song that brightens your mood or a life-saving violin practice like that of David Binanay, we have all felt the healing power of music. From a research standpoint, the health benefits of music are unproven. However, I say that I try to balance being a scientist with being a practitioner and, from a practical standpoint, there are very few reasons to avoid music as a way to improve your health and happiness. Music therapy is noninvasive, inexpensive, and convenient. And music is one of the lifestyle choices we can make that relieves stress and anxiety, decreases pain, and protects against disease. Stefan Koelsch, a senior research fellow in neurocognition at the University of Sussex in Brighton, summarizes the healing effects of music by saying, “I can’t say music is a pill to abolish diseases. But … So many pills have horrible side effects, both physiological and psychological. Music has no side effects, or no harmful ones.” [14, 15]

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

Sources

  1. The Power of Music by Elena Mannes. pg. 179
  2. The Power of Music by Elena Mannes. pg. 168
  3. The Power of Music by Elena Mannes. pg. 172
  4. Cepeda, M.S. et al. (2006) Music for pain relief.
  5. Nilsson, U. (2008) The anxiety and pain-reducing effects of music interventions: a systematic review.
  6. Dileo, C. and Bradt, J. (2007) Music therapy: applications to stress management. In Principles and Practice of Stress Management (Lehrer, P.M. et al., eds), pp. 519–544, Guilford Press
  7. Bradt, J. and Dileo, C. (2009) Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients.
  8. Gangrade, A. (2012) The effect of music on the production of neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, and peptides: a review.
  9. Breiter, H.C. et al. (1997) Acute effects of cocaine on human brain activity and emotion.
  10. Small, D.M. et al. (2001) Changes in brain activity related to eating chocolate: From pleasure to aversion.
  11. Mobbs, D. et al. (2003) Humor modulates the mesolimbic reward centers.
  12. Blood, A.J.and Zatorre, R.J.(2001) Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion.
  13. Many of these research limitations are covered in the guide, The Neurochemistry of Music by Chanda and Levitin.
  14. The Power of Music. pg. 193-194
  15. There is one side effect of music: opportunity cost. Listening to music that makes you happy is a great way to spend your time, but only if you’re not ignoring other things that make you happy or could improve your health and lifestyle. For example, if you listened to music that made you happy all day, but never worked out, then how big of a health benefit are you really getting? The same could be said for happiness. If you simply consumed music that you enjoyed all day long would you end up living a better life than if you had spent that time building a business you loved or mastering a skill that advanced your career? As with all uses of our time, there are tradeoffs to listening to music and it’s important to balance it with other areas of life that provide a payoff.

Thanks to David Binanay for taking time to chat with me and to Sam Sager for his help researching this article.

Featured photo credit: There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen./Flood G. via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

15 Easy-to-Make Crockpot Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

15 Easy-to-Make Crockpot Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

You work all day, and you come home exhausted and hungry. Naturally, the last thing you want to do is to spend hours in the kitchen cooking dinner. If you love cooking, but your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to cook every night, you can simplify your life by making crockpot freezer meals. These meals will allow you to still eat homemade, healthy, filling dinners without the countless hours and enormous effort spent in the kitchen. You can store the simple ingredients in freezer bags and put them in the crockpot when it is time for dinner, or you can cook over the weekend and stock your freezer with delicious ready meals that will make your life easier. Here are 15 easy-to-make recipes to make delicious dinners for busy nights!

1. Cheesy Tortellini With Ground Beef

Cheesy tortellini with ground beef

    This is a perfect crockpot freezer meal that even your kids will love. The best thing of all is that it’s incredibly easy to prepare. All you have to do is crumble some ground beef and combine all the recipe’s ingredients in your crockpot. The other ingredients needed for this super delicious meal include tomatoes, herbs, and onions. Tortellini is one of the most commonly ordered meals when eating out, but this way you will get to eat a homemade, healthier version of the popular dish. Find the recipe here.

    2. Cranberry Pork Roast

    Cranberry pork roast

      Cranberry pork roast is a gluten-free meal that everyone can make, regardless of their culinary skills. The dish requires only these few ingredients: onion, cranberry sauce, bone-in pork shoulder, and honey. To prepare this mouthwatering dish, simply combine all the ingredients together in the crockpot and let them cook. If you don’t like pork or if you prefer not to eat it, you can easily use beef as a substitute without impacting the flavor. Click here to see the recipe.

      3. Greens and Beans

      Greens and beans

        Greens and beans are the ideal dishes if you want a dish that is both delicious and nutrient-dense. Combine vegetable broth with beans, garlic, kale, escalore, and Parmesan, and let cook. The result will be a dish with a soup-like consistency that will fill you up and provide you with a lot of vitamins and minerals.

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        As a bonus, if you or someone else in your family suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or some other common types of arthritis, greens and beans can reduce the inflammation. That’s because kale and other veggies rich in Vitamin K are anti-inflammatory and are known for relieving arthritis. Click here and start cooking!

        4. Chicken Curry

        Chicken curry

          That is yet another gluten-free recipe that you’ll love to make. Chicken curry requires basic ingredients such as tomato paste, coconut milk, honey, onions, and garlic, in addition to chicken and curry of course.The result is a sweet and spicy dish where different flavors are perfectly balanced. Find the recipe here.

          5. Honey Sesame Chicken

          Honey sesame chicken

            Honey sesame chicken is a simple and effortless dish that delivers an amazing taste. To make this wonderful recipe, you have to combine all the ingredients except for the sesame seeds and green onions and let them cook. Use the sesame seeds and green onions for garnish when serving. Click here for the full recipe.

            6. Mushroom Spinach Stroganoff

            Mushroom spinach stroganoff

              In this warm weather, many people opt to eat lighter food that is easy on the stomach. Mushroom spinach stroganoff fits the bill being a vegetable version of a famous comfort food that you and your family will love. The dish requires simple ingredients such as sour cream, onion, garlic, ketchup, vegetables, and mushrooms. This dish is very simple to make, and thanks to your crockpot, you won’t have much work to do. Find the recipe here.

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              7. Stuffed Peppers

              Stuffed peppers

                If you’re looking for a healthy, simple, and delicious recipe, you’ll love this one! These crockpot stuffed peppers are easy to make, and they require only a few ingredients such as ground turkey or beef, onion, garlic, bell peppers, and pasta sauce. This meal will remind you of grandma’s kitchen. You can find the recipe here.

                8. Cilantro and Lime Chicken

                Cilantro and lime chicken

                  Summer is the perfect season to experiment with more exotic flavors, and this meal can help you do just that. To make cilantro and lime chicken, you will need to combine some simple ingredients such as lime, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro, and salsa. The result is chicken that is super tender and that you’ll want to make over and over again, so get the recipe here.

                  9. Beef Fajitas

                  Beef fajitas

                    This is an excellent meal for busy weeknights. The best thing about this recipe is that the required ingredients are probably already there in your kitchen. The recipe is also quite simple — combine all the items in a crockpot, cover, and let cook.

                    The result will be beef and peppers that melt in your mouth. You can easily pair this beef fajita with rice and tortillas and get a meal that the entire family will love. You can find the recipe for this delicious beef fajita here.

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                    10. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

                    Asian chicken lettuce wraps

                      Asian chicken lettuce wraps are sweet, slightly salty and very easy to make. All you need to do is add the chicken, red bell pepper, carrots, soy sauce, honey, garlic and the other ingredients to your crockpot and let them cook. You can also replace the chicken with beef or turkey if you like. The presence of different flavors gives this meal a summer flavor you are sure to love. Learn how to make this meal here.

                      11. Hawaiian Chicken

                      Hawaiian chicken

                        This dish enjoys phenomenal exotic tones due to pineapple and lemon flavors. To make this yummy crockpot freezer meal, you need skinless chicken breasts, peppers, ginger and corn starch, in addition to the iconic pineapple and lemon. Learn how to make this perfect summer dinner here.

                        12. Beef and Barley Stew

                        Beef and barley stewd

                          Beef and barley stew is as healthy as it is delicious. Not to mention it’s incredibly easy to make. Besides the beef and barley, you’ll also need carrots, peppers, herbs and beef broth. The result will be a mouthwatering stew that you can serve alone or over white rice. Get the recipe here.

                          13. Meatball Soup

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                          Meatball soup

                            This soup is very delicious, easy to make and quite versatile. You will be able to swap ingredients and experiment to find your perfect combination. To make this meatball soup, you will need to combine meatballs with pasta sauce, chicken broth, carrots, beans, zucchini, and onion. You can view the recipe here.

                            14. Turkey Black Bean Chili

                            Turkey black bean chili

                              Everybody loves chili and for good reason — it’s very delicious, and it’s a perfect combination of different flavors that balance each other out. To make this chili, you’ll need ground turkey, tomato sauce, black beans, paprika, frozen corns, and a few other ingredients. You can get the full recipe here and have this delicious dish ready when you come back from work on those busy nights.

                              15. Ham and Pinto Bean Soup

                              Ham and pinto bean soup

                                What makes soups special is the fact they’re tasty, healthy and filling at the same time. This soup is no exception. The best quality of this ham and pinto bean soup, however, is its simplicity; it requires only five ingredients: ham, beans, ketchup, salt, and water. Learn how to make this soup here.

                                Conclusion

                                With a demanding work week and a busy schedule, it’s normal to have a low energy level by the time you get home. If you don’t feel like standing in the kitchen and cooking dinner due to this, you don’t have to resort to junk food. These freezer crockpot meals offer you the perfect solution for healthy meals that require minimal preparation. You can either combine each recipe’s ingredients in a freezer bag to be thawed and cooked in a few minutes, or you can cook your meal and freeze it to be used later, it’s up to you.

                                This article showed you 15 easy and simple recipes that you can make using your crockpot. All of these recipes contain anti-inflammatory foods whether it is in the form of vegetable, herbs or spices to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

                                Featured photo credit: Google via bettycrocker.com

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