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country-boy-for-music-blog There is one thing that a number of prominent medical research organizations have come to agree upon—that classical music can be used to produce positive healing effects.  That led me to ask this question:  If classical music heals, then does music that you don’t like actually hurt you?  The answer to that question seems to be yes! Organizations such as Mayo Clinic, the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Stanford University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and the Cleveland Hospital have all conducted extensive studies on the health benefits of joyful music. The inquiry was based on the now well-known concept originally discovered by Norman Cousins and detailed in his book Anatomy of an Illness, which concluded that joyful experiences create positive health benefits.  A study presented at the American Heart Association 2008 Scientific Sessions demonstrated that when you listen to music that you associate with positive emotions, it has a positive effect on reducing your mental stress and also opens up your circulatory system to function better. In fact, the researchers found that when volunteers were measured, their overall cardiovascular system was improved by joyful music. The researchers found that the subjects’ blood flow was affected in the following ways:
  • Listening to enjoyable music increased blood flow by 26%;
  • Listening to anxiety-provoking music decreased blood flow by 6%;
  • Watching humorous videos increased blood flow by 19%; and
  • Listening to relaxation tapes increased blood flow by 11%.
In other words, when your mental stress is reduced by engaging in enjoyable activities such as watching humorous videos or listening to enjoyable music, your overall stress is reduced and your health is improved.  In fact, the magnitude of increased blood flow could be as high as that produced by aerobic exercise. In addition, it has been discovered by a number of researchers that the perfect instrument for the maximum benefit is one of the oldest instruments known to man: the harp.  In fact, the Cleveland Clinic has actually commissioned the Cleveland Orchestra to compose specific classical pieces to play for patients during brain operations.  Now during the process of treating people with traumatic brain injuries, strokes, depression, and even multiple sclerosis, the doctors choose to have music playing in the background. Harpist Tami Briggs was quoted in “Music as Medicine” by Bill Briggs as saying that the harp “goes to the deepest places of the body that need to be healed.”  She went on to say that when she plays the harp at the bedside of patients, she is able to see the blood pressure monitors actually going down and oxygenation rates going up.  She attributes that to the harp assisting the human brain to go to a more peaceful place where it can find deeper relaxation. Ms. Briggs when on to say that “the harp is the only instrument that has 20 to 50 strings and is open, unlike a violin.  When a harpist strikes a chord, it also opens vibrations in strings above and below the string that is plucked.  Those vibrations are absorbed by the body.” So the true answer regarding whether or not country music hurts?  It depends upon the listener!  If you love country, then it can be healing for you.  If you hate to listen to certain types of music… then don’t do it. Whatever type of music provides you with deep enjoyment can contribute to your healing process. I think I’m going to sit down with a cup of Costa Rican coffee now and listen to Gene Autry.