SIM São Paulo 2019 Magazine - Music to have a better life

By Thiago Ney / Photo: Pedro Margherito

Music saved my life. And many of my fans’. At every single performance, at least two or three people come to tell me which songs of mine have helped them out of their depression or made them stop thinking about taking their own lives. Music really can help us get through some tough times.”

The statement is from 39-year-old Tiê. The singer says that at the end of 2004, she was touring with Toquinho in Chile when she suddenly fell ill. She was feverish, she got very sick. Shortly after, back in Brazil, she had to undergo lung surgery. Due to lupus, an autoimmune disease.

“And it was there during the treatment that I composed my first song, ‘Cha Verde’ (Green Tea). I couldn’t play well, many people even criticized me for it, but the song was the scape that I found. It’s a very powerful song. It makes us feel good, makes us stronger,” she reveals. “I had a few crises during my career, but what keeps me going is this certainty that music will help other people.”

Songs also function as a soundtrack for festive moments. They bring back good (and not-so-good) memories. But we often don’t realize that music has the ability to help us cope with everyday life, to motivate us to get out of some really tough situations. Music heals.

No wonder when typing “music and wellness” Google returns more than 10.5 million results. Music has been connected to human wellbeing for a reasonably long time: there are reports of prehistoric people who used a flute-style instrument made from animal bones for ceremonial purposes.

Nowadays, music isn’t just in the places that we visit. Pretty much any track recorded in the last two centuries is only a couple of clicks away, right on your smartphone. Music is everywhere. And thank God for that! Music is a transformational agent that helps us socialize and meet people. It helps us cope with difficult times, and even treat illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

In Brazil, before the arrival of the Portuguese in April 1500, indigenous peoples already used musical instruments and dance in a number of rituals. They were used in order to celebrate a successful hunting or fishing trip, a coming-of-age festivity or even to remember the dead.

The relationship between music and wellbeing is nothing new, however it has only been better examined recently. In April 2019, electronics maker Sonos released its extensive Brilliant Sound Survey, conducted in 12 countries (from the United States to Australia, Mexico to China, France and the United Kingdom) with 12,000 respondents between 12 and 50 years old. The study reveals that listening to music reduces stress, increases productivity, helps us connect with others, and improves health. In addition, those who listen to songs for three hours or more each day claim that music is more essential than coffee, television and - brace yourselves - sex.

Some of the survey numbers look as surprising as a White Stripes concert at the Amazon Theater. For example, 36% of respondents say music can make them laugh or cry; 68% say they get in a supercharged mood; 74% feel less stressed when they realize that their favorite song is being played.

More numbers: just over half of respondents are sure they wouldn’t be so successful if it wasn’t for music. Among those who engage in regular physical activity, 75% mention listening to music tracks as the factor that has the greatest impact on their health (greater than any supplement). And 77% say that when laziness hits, music keeps them motivated and has a positive  effect on their work.

Professor of music psychology at the London’s Goldsmiths College, German Daniel Müllensiefen comments on the Brilliant Sound Survey: “many people probably have no idea how much they rely on music in order to balance their mood throughout the day. We don’t value that because music is far more widespread than it used to be.

Müllensiefen says that scientists “have found evidence that we are (neurologically) wired in order to perceive, to appreciate and also to relate to and through music. This explains why music is an integral part of the human experience. (The music) It is unique in that it affects different psychological functions. It can trigger the same brain areas as food, sex and other recreational activities, including some types of medications”

The Brilliant Sound Survey confirms something that many researchers have already proven: music is a therapeutic agent, and one of the most effective ailments. It can soothe conditions such as anxiety.

“Music has a history of moving one’s psychological state from one place to another. For example, imagine listening to a song that reminds you of your late grandfather then being overwhelmed by a sense of longing, or hearing your graduation tune and being filled with a happy sense of nostalgia, ”David John Baker, a doctor of music theory specialized in cognitive and brain science, told Forbes magazine.

Baker is one of the creators of Brainwaves, a project that puts together a series of music tracks which, when jointly listened, help relieve the stress caused by long trips. These are works that last between 16 and 20 minutes and help combat lack of concentration and insomnia.

“If music can be used to move one’s psychological state from one place to another, why not trying to create tracks specifically aimed at helping someone focus, sleep or overcome a temporary period of anxiety?”, claimed the researcher. The Brainwaves project is available on various streaming platforms such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and more.

Medical journals and academic research are continuously uncovering evidence of how music helps both our wellness and health.

“Considering all possible benefits, musical interventions can provide an effective complementary approach to the relief of acute, procedural and chronic pain, in the medical environment.” That’s the conclusion of a study published in Oxford University Press in late 2016.

Another study, published in the US National Center for Bio-
technology Information, says music may be a “viable alternative to sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs in order to reduce preoperative anxiety.”

Harvard Medical School therapist Adam Sankowski explains that brains and bodies naturally connect to a musical note. He provides an example: “Imagine watching a horror movie without any music. How would you know you’re about to experience a jump scare? Similarly, every sporting event uses music in order to cheer the crowds. Music is used around the world in order to manipulate our mood. ” The mechanism is the same when we want to sleep better, or to become more productive.

“The basic guidance is to try matching the song to the mood you want to have. Instead of listening to the song that matches your current mood, try listening to the song that matches the feeling that you want to experience.”

"What keeps me going is this
certainty that music will
help other people"

Pop invests in weed

Music, Wellbeing. Weed. The combination forms a triptych that has helped to shape Western pop culture since the second half of the 20th century.

Marijuana played a key role amongst young people who established the 1960s counterculture, motivated by a desire to create a fairer, healthier, happier, and more peaceful world. It was a movement that influenced (and was influenced by) bands and artists such as The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, Grateful Dead and many others.

Recently, the benefits of cannabis for the wellbeing of the individual have been further researched. And the results are clear as daylight.

So much so that the recreational use of marijuana has already been legalized in 11 US states, in addition to the country’s capital, Washington DC. The medicinal use of cannabis is allowed in 33 states. In Canada, smoking a joint has not been at odds with the law since 2018.

Legalization shows that marijuana use is not restricted to one specific gender. A 2017 survey by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition points out that women smoke proportionally more than men (53% of females said they use marijuana, compared to 42% of males). Many of them claim that they do so, for example, in order to boost their sex life or even in order to mitigate the symptoms of menopause.

Music artists are aware that the market has opened up. Both established names like Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson, as well as new voices, such as Margo Price (Third Man Records singer) and Jenny Lewis, invest directly or indirectly in the sale of cannabis or cannabis-related products.

“Many artists sell clothes or shoes, some sell wine and beer, others advertise to fast food companies. I’m selling a God-grown plant ” jokes Price, in an interview with The Guardian.

The marijuana traded by the singer is sold in California. “I think you can make more money selling marijuana today than selling records. No one buys albums anymore, but a lot of people buy marijuana.”

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