HEALTHMIX: Music to my ears

June 26, 2022

Overwhelming research suggests music is a form of therapy that can help with mental health issues, more widespread than any previous time in history.

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Rabab, a lute-like string instrument with roots in Afghanistan, is difficult to master and is most commonly associated with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Off in the night while you live it up/I’m off to sleep/Waging wars to shake the poet and the beat/I hope it’s gonna make you notice.” - ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leon

A beginner’s guide

On the surface, television shows like Empire to films like It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 8 Mile, a reference to the effect of music on a person’s ability to socialize and/or express themselves is present overtly or subliminally.

Beyond a layman’s observation, scientific research is making headway in the effect of music therapy when it comes to mental health issues that are growing to the point that its among top three illnesses in the world. And while not all scientific research on the subject can or should be believed but when accredited scientific journals to point out its potential, there is no harm in applying it to yourself. But to be on the safe side, don’t apply death metal. Why? Because like all things in life, there are certain boundaries and research does suggest that this particular genre agitates more than soothes your soul and to be accurate, mind.

According to Cleveland Clinic, music therapy is based on the premise of evidence-based treatment and can provide help in a number of diseases including (but not restricted to) depression, substance abuse, allowing how a person can reduce stress and an improvement in self-esteem.

Notes an article on Cleveland Clinic: “If you’re dealing with a mental health disorder, music therapy can help you with communication and expression, help you explore your thoughts and feelings, improve your mood and concentration and develop coping skills.”

But this doesn’t mean only using music therapy. Discuss with your therapist or psychiatrist, but as CC notes, music can alleviate some of the problems that rise due to a mental health disorder.

Pick up an instrument

YouTube is a video-streaming site but music videos are not the only thing on it. There are artists who will teach you everything from buying the right guitar or ukele or an instrument of your choice if you are a beginner before teaching you how to play them. So, if you don’t know how to start just search the site for say a violin teacher or an acoustic guitar or ukele or flute one who will guide you. You could also teach yourself electronic music, at the heart of future music.

If Abdullah Siddiqui can teach himself as well as several other artists, you could give it a try too. Abdullah learned on buggy software and has turned out to be voice of the new generation. You could too. The idea is not to become an artist who must now pursue music as a career necessarily but get those neurons firing.

Go to music spaces

During a spell of depression, getting out of the bed feels like a daunting task. Add to it a global virus like Cov-Sars-2 and it becomes easier to curl up like a ball and binge-watch anything from present Pakistani drama serials to newer ones to Netflix. But in 2022 as restrictions have been eased - after vaccinations and booster shots - music gigs have become a reality, again. You won’t find a concert every day in your city but it is possible to go to shows that do take place in your city. It is about your connection to the music being played, how it can encourage a positive response and how it can encourage further positive attitude. You don’t have to throw yourself in a moshpit; it can be as simple as swaying to the music from afar or hanging back and just letting the music wash over. Because of subvariants of Cov-Sars-2 and a surge in other parts of the world, it would be wise to wear masks and try and maintain a healthy distance.

Music can be a cathartic experience, seen here Sikandar Ka Mandar during Lussun TV.

Music Geek

Being a music geek is not easy. But to become one, you have to spend a great deal of time and look back and forward. Think of it like writing a thesis paper. You don’t have to write one but this journey of how music - for instance - has evolved in South Asia. It is a bigger task than you originally thought and will make you cringe as you discover certain lewd behaviours attached to the industry or tell the story as a documentary filmmaker (phones can be used to make documentary although it isn’t going to be an Avatar). What this does is give you a mission that will occupy your brain and instead of thinking emotionally, you will lean on the side of cautious optimism and logic.

Music Meditation

From lo-fi playlists on Spotify to searching music for sleep to listening to your favourite artist, there is a huge variety to choose from as you spend time with music and use it for meditation. Use headphones so even if your mind wanders, you can bring it back and focus on the music as the point of centre. You can also attach breathing exercises to it or go running with music in your headphones, or the new ‘airpod’ fashion. And as Kendrick Lamar said, “Don’t kill my vibe” which means find music you love but try opting for melodic rap, pop, electronic, rock and other genres but make sure it is melodic.

Note: Please reach out to a local psychologist or psychiatrist if you’re suffering from a mental health issue as this isn’t a cure but tools that can
provide some help.

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