Angie Mack has lived and breathed music since childhood. As a girl, she sang and danced to the Neil Diamond records her father played. As a teen, she rang handbells in the church choir. Later, as a certified nursing assistant, she cared for nursing home patients, stepping in to play worship music.
Today, she mentors students in music and acting at her studio in Wisconsin.
As a breast cancer survivor, Ms. Mack has experienced firsthand music’s transformative physical and mental health benefits for her students and herself.
“My breast cancer journey has led me to conclude that I need to express myself to stay alive,” Ms. Mack told The Epoch Times. Music helped her cope with treatment.
How Music Can Enhance Mental HealthMany don’t understand the very real trauma that can accompany illness, Ms. Mack said. Music therapy can be beneficial in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and managing patients' symptoms.
Aids in Expressing FeelingsSome of Ms. Mack’s students suffer from depression, anxiety, and other conditions.
“After working with children and families for over 20 years, I can tell you that our future generations need some immediate assistance in expressing their emotions,” she said, noting that suicide rates among young people are climbing.
“We need more safe places for a teen to communicate the rage and confusion that they might be feeling inside,” Ms. Mack said.
Listening to or creating music can be cathartic. It can serve as a powerful tool for processing and releasing pent-up feelings, providing a nonverbal outlet for emotions. Different genres and styles of music can capture a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and anger.
Improves Autism, Anxiety, DepressionLori Ann Locke, a board-certified music therapist, echoed the view that music profoundly affects health and well-being. Growing up with a neighbor who had special needs taught Ms. Locke to relate to people of different abilities. She began playing the piano at age 7, deciding then to become a music teacher.
Years later, Ms. Locke became a music therapist, working with Alzheimer's and neurological disorder patients, some with dual diagnoses such as autism and anxiety.
“When students learn an instrument while in therapy, then they have a coping skill; when they’re feeling anxious, they can play the drum or the piano even when they’re not in the therapy session.”
Some research has shown that autistic children can benefit from music therapy that incorporates rhythmic movements such as clapping or marching.
Science Affirms Music's Physical Health BenefitsFor Ms. Mack, music has provided more than an emotional boost; the melodies and rhythms provided tangible physical relief from the ravages of cancer. Research affirms her experience.
May Lower Blood PressureMusic can help tune up heart health and regulate blood pressure, studies suggest.
May Kill Cancer CellsResearch shows that music may have effects on cancer cells. A 2016 article in Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine discussed how breast cancer cell lines respond to music.
Improves MemoryResearch shows that music profoundly benefits those with neurological disorders such as dementia, reducing mood symptoms, easing agitation, and evoking personally meaningful memories, according to a 2020 Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews article.
When Ms. Locke plays music from a dementia patient's youth, it makes the patient more verbal and improves recall, she said. In her experience, singing hymns also enables patients to sing along word-for-word, demonstrating music's power to engage Alzheimer's patients by tapping into long-term memories.
Combining music with movements using both sides of the body, such as tapping both hands or moving both legs, has significant effects, Ms. Mack said. This can include playing piano, dancing, or participating in drum circles.
Helps Babies in NICUMusic therapy and other music-based interventions in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) can lead to a reduction in heart and respiratory rate, improve infants' sleep and food intake, and reduce the anxiety of mothers, according to a 2019 Medicines systematic review of randomized controlled trials on different music-based interventions and a meta-analysis on music therapy for infants.
Reduces InflammationMusic can have anti-inflammatory effects, lowering inflammatory white blood cells and signaling proteins, antibodies, hormones, and immune system neurotransmitters, according to a 2021 study in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity–Health.
The study showed that when participants listened to pleasant, relaxing music, they experienced decreased levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Music is more than an art form. It can touch hearts, calm our minds, and strengthen the body.
“We are music," Ms. Locke said. "Our heartbeat is like a drum. It’s part of us."