It has been long known that there is a strong connection between music and emotion. Music can be used to get you pumped for a big game, meditate, or even lull someone to sleep.
Music therapists recognize this correlation between music and emotion and use it to help patients with anxiety, negative feelings, and improve things like muscle coordination.
Innette Swart, a student at North-West University of South Africa, did research on how music can assist learners in therapeutic and healing ways. Her study focuses on the brain development in young South African learners that have gone through traumatizing events (e.g., diseases like HIV/AIDS, poverty, racial discrimination). Her study was published in Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa this past September.
Swart broke down that left part of the brain comprehends things like logic and language. It does more analysis and computation. The right side of the brain deals with more creativity, feelings, and visualization. According to Swart, integration between the left and right parts of the brain is required for musical activity (Swart, 7). With something like singing, Swart explains that speech deals with the left-brain, while the right brain affects intonation and pitch.
When a young musician has been affected by a traumatic experience, it can greatly impact the way they learn and convey their thoughts and emotions. Regarding the learning and memorization of music, associations with emotional relevance are particularly important to musicians. The parts of the brain that are used to memorize and learn music are the same ones that process memories of fear and trauma. According to Swart, when a learner is fearful, the left/rational side of the brain is used. This fear makes it difficult to engage the emotional/right side of the brain. This results in anxiety (Swart, 15).
With Swart’s research and the work that music therapists do, a lot can be done to ease a troubled mind and heal brain trauma. Music itself is therapeutic. It is something that conveys emotion and, when used with the intention of healing, can repair negative thought tendencies in the brain.
So the next time you’re not having the best day, treat yourself to some good music – it’s good for you!