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Moving your mood with music

With the second Music Therapy Awareness Week coming up (July 1-9), it is a good time to remind ourselves of the health benefits of music and how its everyday use can help move your mood. Massey University nursing lecturer Craig Waterworth has now developed a Move your Mood with Music tool to help you shift from negative to more positive feelings.

Mr Waterworth says music therapy usually involves playing music with an instrument and co-creating music with clients to assist in healing and personal growth.

“Music therapists are skilled musicians who use the relationship between their client, themselves and music as a creative process, usually to bring about healing.

“Everyday use of music differs to this, and New Zealand musician Christopher Small included this in his definition of musicking, as taking part ‘in any capacity, in a musical performance, whether by performing, by listening, by rehearsing or practicing, by providing material for performance, or by dancing’.

“Danish music therapy Professor Lars Ole Bonde provided a theoretical framework of ‘musicking’ identifying the differences between music therapy, music medicine and everyday use of music,” Mr Waterworth says.

“As a nurse, I am particularly interested in the application of music medicine and everyday use of music as a nursing intervention and health promotion tool. As part of the nursing process, it can benefit the people nurses care for.”

Mr Waterworth, a professional clinician at Massey’s Wellington campus, has developed his work further, to create a Move your Mood with Music tool, for anyone who wants to use music to help them shift their mood from a negative to a more positive frame of mind.

“It might be that you are feeling anxious, stressed or demotivated and you want to use music to help you feel relaxed, focused or energised. Music can also help people shift from an unhappy to a happier state,” he says.

“The tool works using the idea of entrainment. First, a piece of music is played that matches a person’s mood. The stimulus of music evokes a response in brain activity. If subsequent pieces of music are played to evoke a different mood, then brain activity can change and a more positive frame of mind can be induced.”

Mr Waterworth says while music is a very powerful tool, it is also very personal. “A song that brings tears of joy to one person may conversely bring tears of pain to another, depending on previous experience, interpretation and cultural meaning. There are no absolutes around what comprises a happy or sad song, although most people will find higher tempo, more complex arrangements with inspiring lyrics uplifting, and they are more likely to find slower tempo, less complex non-lyrical arrangements to be relaxing.”

American sociologist and psychologist Corey Keyes believes emotional wellness is not solely a matter of being mentally ill or mentally well, it is also about whether or not we are languishing or flourishing.

“If we have optimal mental health, we are flourishing. If we have poor mental health, we are languishing. The Move your Mood with Music tool could be most useful for people who feel they are heading towards the languishing zone, as many studies have shown the benefits of music on mental health,” Mr Waterworth says.

“However, you should talk to a health care professional if you find you have a mood that is dominating, persistent or severe. Healthline, a government funded free 24-hour helpline, staffed by nurses, can be a useful starting point.”

So what does Mr Waterworth listen to? “As well as being a music fan, I am also a science fiction fan, so I find the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Tapes help boost my energy, Palette-Swap Ninja’s Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans cheers me up, and the Tyrannicus Star Trek Mega Suites help me to relax.”

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