Thursday, March 15, 2012

Living Well: Music's Healing Powers

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I'm contemplating Austin's temporary invasion by song-mad folks numbering an expected 200,000-plus for the showcases and free concerts of the South by Southwest Music Festival.

The healing powers of music, more specifically.

Yes, music comforts us, uplifts us and lets us feel solidarity with our fellow humans.

I remember the late Roy Orbison offering me solace as I sang along to his Crying, Only The Lonely, and Evergreen. I was heartbroken, mourning the loss of my first true love.

Melodramatic? Definitely yes.

Heartfelt? Totally.

Music makes me feel good and even motivates me to take better care of myself. I'll exercise to Motown greats and Abba. I'll put Billie Joel, Barry White or the Righteous Brothers on my boom box as I cut up vegetables for my salad.

And there are so many different types of music that evoke so many different healing feelings.  Especially great is enjoying musical styles in their own cultural environment.

I had three firsts when I moved from the East Coast to Central Texas: My first exposure to Country music (a brilliant concert starring the mesmerizing Willie Nelson), my first exposure to mariachi music (a soothing stroll  and lunch along the beautiful River Walk in San Antonio) and my first exposure to those joyous accordion players and yodelers (an evening in that Czech city of Walburg).

And each new style takes up residence in your soul, filling it with yearning and color and joy, to combat those times when the blues threaten.

And these thoughts aren't just personal. An article in ScienceDaily Jan. 22, 2008 reports, "A therapist may be able to use music to help some patients fight depression and improve, restore and maintain their health," according to a Systematic Review from the Cochrane Library.

And a contributing factor to obesity in some cases is depression. Writer Willow Lawson quotes Sarah Mustillo, Ph.D. of Duke University Medical Group in a May 1, 2003 story in Psychology Today on the link between depression and obesity. "Depression may bring on obesity if the child lacks the energy to exercise or is immobilized by stress."

Let's not forget the socializing power of music. It fills you with a sense of community and connection with other people: belonging to church and school choirs and marching bands, singing the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events, stretching and bending to music in exercise classes and singing the Star Spangled Banner when our Olympians win medals.

And the memories music evokes. I associate different songs with men I've dated, vacations I've enjoyed, celebrations with friends and even political candidates and their campaigns.

Even my dogs have theme songs! MayBelle (Wild Thing), Zorro (Let's Dance) and Oscar Wilde (an operatic Christmas song).

So let's just go now. Put on a CD. And let the music sweep over us, eliciting or creating the moods, the feelings and the memories that help heal us and make us better, healthier people.

By Lee Kelly

Kelly is an internationally award winning writer who consults with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.