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Music is Therapy

Notes on How Soundtracks Soothe Our Souls

"Music is my therapy."

You can buy the sticker on Amazon, slap it on your car, and every music lover will know what it means:

Music is the cure for what ails you.

It's the balm at the end of a bad day, your solace when you are sad, your motivation when you are moving through mud. Music puts you back on track when you're going off the rails.

If music has the power to make you feel better, naturally you want it to sound better.

Optimal sound is what drives music lovers to Moon Audio for high-end headphones, headphone amps, DACs, custom audio cables, and much more. Dig a little deeper, though, and we find our customers are looking for audio gear that can do more for their music ... so that their music can do more for them.  

And there's quite a bit that music can do.

Music can calm you down ... and perk you up. It can help you solve problems … and forget about them. It can help you tune in … and tune out. Music can feed your head … and get you out of your head. And none of this is in your head!

Indeed, according to the American Music Therapy Association, music can be used to promote wellness, manage stress, and enhance memory. Certified music therapists use it to address their clients’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.

While you may not have experienced music therapy under the guidance of a trained therapist, you likely have a sense of music’s multifaceted and often paradoxical powers to affect your mind and our body.

Music can calm you down ... and perk you up. It can help you solve problems … and forget about them. It can help you tune in … and tune out. Music can feed your head … and get you out of your head. And none of this is in your head!

Music & Mood

Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio with Pexels

The term “mood music” conjures up romance and relaxation. But when it comes down to it, all music is mood music, with the power to shape and shift your emotional state.

Music can inspire, delight, mystify, and intrigue you. Sometimes, it can touch a nerve, frighten you, or bring you to tears.

Music moves you.

Sometimes you are in control: You select tunes based on your current mood or the one you hope to achieve.

Other times, it happens organically, like when you hear a song in a store that makes you feel peppier (and more inclined to spend!). Or when the tone of your morning is set by the song that happens to be playing when your alarm goes off.

Studies have shown that upbeat, cheerful music can make you feel happier. But music doesn’t have to sound “happy” to make you feel good. If you happen to be craving something dark and aggressive, you will be rewarded with a hit of dopamine when your craving is met. You can thank your brain's reward system for that.

Likewise, music can modulate your stress levels, with slower tempos facilitating a calm and quiet mind after your brain syncs up with the beat, resulting in alpha (i.e., calm and relaxed) brainwaves. Slower-tempo music can also lower blood pressure and stress hormones and relax your muscles, all of which contribute to a more blissful state.

To really conceptualize the music-mood connection, try to imagine your favorite film — heck, any film — without its soundtrack: "Jaws" without the ominous "dun-dun..."; "Chariots of Fire" without the majestic Vangelis; "Psycho" without the frenetic shower scene accompaniment. Music provides context, mirrors the action on the screen, and lets you know what's coming. Music sets the mood.

Music & Memory

Have you ever been passively listening to the radio when a song you forgot existed instantly transports you to the end of your senior year of college?

The mental trip might be momentary — a flash of the excitement around receiving your diploma or a tinge of sadness over the girl who broke your heart after graduation. Or maybe it lingers: In the ensuing hours or days, you remember all sorts of things from that time, perhaps even pulling out an old mix tape (if you can even find a tape player) in an attempt to keep the reminiscences coming.

Music and memory are inextricably linked — so much so that music has been used to help dementia patients whose musical memories tend to remain intact. In the documentary “Alive Inside,” social worker Dan Cohen shows how music can transform patients from despondent to brimming with emotion and joie de vivre after listening to music tied to their pasts.

Music makes you remember. Often that comes in the form of emotions, but it can also be facts.

Maybe you are trying to recall who landscaped your yard last year. You remember that the crew listened to the Eagles while they worked. Sure enough, you remember the company's name after the first few seconds of hearing "Already Gone."

Research has shown that music doesn't just help you retrieve memories, it helps you make new ones.

You are apt to remember things when they are set to song. Can you recite the states in alphabetical order to this day because you learned the catchy "Fifty Nifty United States" in grade school? Likewise, you may not be able to remember your friends' phone numbers, but you will never forget that Jenny's number is 867-5309.

Courtesy of Jorge Fakhouri Filho with Pexels

Music, Motivation & Concentration

Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio with Pexels

Muddling through work? Fresh out of ideas? Struggling to focus? Music can help.

Studies show that listening to happy-sounding music can increase a type of thinking known to be a key element of creativity. Music can also facilitate problem solving. Perhaps you've found yourself "stuck" on something, only to find yourself having a breakthrough during or on the heels of a listening session.

And you know that music can give you the boost you need to keep moving during physical activity. Music can also help you through the workday. Sometimes a quick hit is what you need when you find yourself slowing down (say, a five-minute pause to blast a punchy track). Other times, consistent background listening fits the bill.

Multiple studies have shown that music can enhance cognition and concentration. Uptempo music has been shown to increase focus, alertness, and motivation for learning. Classical music is associated with a boost in brain power — the so-called Mozart Effect, although the scientific jury is out on that one — as well as concentration.

There are caveats, though. For focus-heavy tasks, the lyrics might be distracting; you might find yourself following along or attempting to decipher them. Tempo matters, too: If certain music proves to be too stimulating, you may find your concentration waning.

Music & Healing

Music might not be able to replace medicine for the treatment of acute or chronic pain, but it can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.

Listening to music before, during, and after medical and dental procedures has been shown to reduce pain and the anxiety that often accompanies it — or even the anticipation of it. Theories range from a "distraction" effect to a shift in your perception of pain to an effect on the brain's opioid system.

One Moon Audio customer, an ER doctor who specializes in diagnostic radiology, has observed that music helps to calm patients, and recommends that people listen to their favorite music on headphones to calm MRI-tube anxiety.

You may not need to be conscious for music to affect your physiology. In one blind study, surgical patients who wore headphones with Mozart playing needed less medication to maintain deep sedation. They also had lower heart rates, blood pressure, and adrenaline levels than their non-headphone-wearing counterparts.

Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio with Pexels

When it comes to pain of the emotional variety, music can be your shoulder to cry on, your pillow to scream into, your catharsis. While it might seem logical that your selections should steer you away from and not mimic your sorrowful state, research has shown that sad music can make sad or depressed people feel better. And when you are grappling with the unanswerable, angry or sullen can be just what you need to muddle through your existential angst.

Of course, preference and personal experience play a role in all of this. There is no "one size fits all," no "listen to this song/genre and you'll feel better." One person’s rest and rejuvenation might be another’s nails on a chalkboard; one person's happy song can be another's reminder of hard times. Some people find jazz jarring; others relax to heavy metal. The upshot: Find what works for you.

What Our Customers Say

Sometimes our customers know exactly what they want; other times, they seek our expertise to match them with audio equipment that will maximize their listening experience.

Along the way, we get to know our customers. Their musical tastes, listening styles, and budgets, yes — but also their stories. A common theme in many of their stories is that music plays a therapeutic role in their lives.

One customer told us that music has always been her therapy, especially when she's grieving or feeling anxious. She cried when she found "her" headphones through Moon Audio, because she'd never heard her music sound so powerful. She said that her new audio system is nothing short of life-changing.

A customer who is a cancer survivor and widower uses music to cultivate mindfulness and a positive outlook. His new digital system not only allows him to take his music on the road, but has exposed elements in his collection that he never recognized.

Let Moon Audio guide you to the high-end headphones, headphone amps, DACs, custom audio cables, and more that will bring out the very best in your music — and in you.

Because after all, music is your therapy.

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