Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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                                           MUSIC: A PATHWAY TO HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

I know you are busy and stressed and probably feel you don't have time to even think about music much less explore its influence on your life. Today I'm asking you to WAKE UP to the power of music. Read this article and then have fun exploring. Research has demonstrated a myriad of very powerful effects of music on your body, mind and soul. Why not use these effects to improve your life - and even your plants!

I'll cite some scientific information about music, but first let's spend a little time thinking about the powerful influence of music in our lives. Next time you watch a movie, spend some time listening to the soundtrack. You'll find the background music has an incredible effect on your mind and body as well as a significant influence on your interpretation of the movie and your enjoyment of its effects. Also note background music in malls and stores and other parts of your life. A lot of music simply feeds into our minds and bodies without us actually registering their effects. After a few days of following this Phillips music experiment you will be quite impressed with the power of music others use to influence you. Next you'll be ready to think about and then use music to improve your life in multiple ways. And you don't even have to thank me. Do it for yourself. And by the way, use your new knowledge about music to help your children, your families and your friends.

A recent study by Daniel Levitin reviewed 400 published scientific papers finding documented effects of music on management of mood, stress reduction, improving immunity and social bonding. These studies even found that relaxing music can have a greater effect in reducing stress (decreasing cortisol) than anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium! A recent summary article on cites effects of music on important parts of the brain such as the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. If you would like to read a helpful book in understanding music and its effects, consider, "This Is Your Brain On Music," Daniel Levitin, Plume/Penguin, 2007.

The next part of your musical experiment will be to explore different types of music and develop an understanding of the desirable and undesirable effects of this music. Pay attention to your level of pleasure and happiness, your level of relaxation or stress, your breathing rate and the effects of the music and lyrics on your emotions. Music induces neurochemical and complex responses within your brain and body and you can generally monitor the outcome of these effects in your life. You'll find that fast tempos increase your heartbeat and breathing and can be used for exercise, fast dancing and certain kinds of work output. Your body responses will generally increase or decrease with the tempo of the song. Slower music and familiar music tends to be relaxing and stress reducing. A general factor is music entrainment where the heartbeat will be led to synchronize with the beats of external rhythmic stimuli including music. This is why beautiful music can have profound effects on relaxation while drumming sounds and outside noises can increase stress. Heartbeat and breathing are slowed down to 60 beats per minute in relaxation. Since many drummers play upwards of 100 beats per minute, this will tend to force the body into unnatural rhythm patterns thus often increasing stress and anxiety, sometimes without conscious awareness of these effects.

What types of music do you prefer? Let your experiment be wide ranging and you may discover different types of music to increase your enjoyment of life. Many music choices are personal and intuitive although they generally follow physiological effects on the body and mind. Classical music is usually rated positively in general outcome studies. Mozart has even been found to increase memory and test performance.

You may remember hearing about the Chatham County nemesis, the legendary Stress Monster who roams our hills and valleys creating chaos and destruction. Yes he even likes to use music as a tool for his fiendish plots against us. He's read the research studies which show that violent song lyrics create negative emotions and thoughts which can lead to hostility and aggression. One study found that adults and teens listening to "grunge rock music" showed decreases in positive effects such as caring, relaxation, mental clarity and vigor as well as increases in negative effects such as tension and hostility. Interestingly, many of the teenagers indicated that they like this grunge rock because of its stimulating effects.

Yes, we can study the effects of music both from hell and heaven. Studies of near-death experiences as well as reports channeled from heaven describe the music there as profoundly beautiful and inspiring, permeating all aspects of their experiences. You'd be amazed at how many of these books are proliferating recently. One excellent research study of these effects can be found in Stafford Betty, The Afterlife Unveiled, 6THBooks, 2011.

As you explore the effects of music, consider scientific effects of music which can be used to increase concentration or relaxation. In this section of my website you'll find articles citing the benefits of Hemi-sync technology applied to music. Hemi-sync will enable your brain to synchronize to produce more profound effects either stimulation or relaxing your mind as desired. I'll let you read those articles if you are interested. I'll describe for you here a few sources of music you might consider pursuing when your goals are health, happiness, relaxation, peace of mind and meditative/spiritual enlightenment. Most of these musicians have their own websites and their works can usually also be purchased on Amazon and iTunes. Many of the compositions by these musicians can also be found on YouTube. I have a lending library of these works for my clients. For music scientifically and beautifully rendered, consider the works of Steven Halpern. He's been studying music for over 40 years and lately added hemi-sync to some of his albums. You'll find many interesting choices. The beautiful music of Frederic Delarue is said to be directly inspired by the angels. A free download from his website is "A Healing Gift to Humanity: Musical Rapture." The story related on his website explains how a deceased friend sent him this music from heaven to be distributed always free of charge to those of us living on this earth. Delightful! Also check out his dolphin inspired music. I particularly enjoy the music and associated imagery you can conjure up with "A Fairy in the Woods" and other works by Gary Sadler. "Beyond" is perhaps the most beautiful spiritual music I've heard with Buddhist and Christian prayers sung together (Dechen Shak-Dagsay and Regula Curti) and interludes spoken by Tina Turner. Gerald Markoe is known for his spiritual and otherwordly music. Check out his "Healing Energy" blessed by John of God in Brazil. I love Constance Demby's work including "Sanctum Sanctuorum" and "Aeterna." If these ideas aren't enough you can subscribe to the free DailyOm Music on the internet which brings you samples of interesting music. (Please note: I know you like upbeat stimulating music for singing and dancing. I also enjoy this music, but in this article I'm emphasizing the relaxing and meditative types of music.

Music effects more than human beings, also having documented effects on animals and plants. This is truly a fascinating subject and can be pursued in research reports. Soundwaves are composed of vibrations which obviously effect all living entities around them. You'll find fascinating and charming YouTube reports of animals responding to music. Years of research studies including those conducted by Dorothy Retallack. Joel Sternheimer, and Dan Carlson have demonstrated positive effects of music on plant growth. Carlson found that classical and upbeat music including birds and crickets increased plant growth significantly. I ordered a CD of his "Sonic Bloom" music, so check back with me in a couple of months if you're interested in my experiment. Better still, buy the CD for yourself! When I started playing the CD I found it made me happy! The music is truly infectious.

Enjoy this article, enjoy your musical experiment and enjoy your life!