How to use music as a cure

From anxiety to boosting academic performance, the right playlist could be just what the doctor ordered

Umnia Shahid July 08, 2017

KARACHI: “You keep eternity, give us the radio” is my mantra.

When my mind resembles a souped up automobile engine, listening to O Re, and - a Coke Studio miracle by Noori - can unlace any doubt gliding through my cognitive receptors. A new standard has been set by default now that I listen to the radio first thing each morning before I hustle myself out of my convivial mattress. Lending your ears to the right radio show done by the right person is precisely what you need to flush out the plethora of pessimism and kick start your Herculean day. I mean, who won’t be enthused to be badass after grooving to Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai?

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We don’t need extensive research to substantiate that singing and moving to music can have concrete therapeutic value. Noori, A R Rahman, Kanye West and Adam Levine are my physicians most certainly. But for the sake of professionalism, I’ll hold back on my jazbaat and graft science into the concept of melodic healing – to make it more legit, of course!

Scientifically speaking, whether one’s going through a harrowing heartbreak or celebrating success, we instinctively use music to deepen the ways we're feeling and that's why it can be used in psychotherapy and for self-help. According to research published in Brain and Cognition by Edinburgh University, music is medicine for the mind – just like hot showers are miracles for the soul. The shower bit wasn’t part of this research; just my own analysis…

Lunging back to tunes, music therapist Dr Stella Compton-Dickinson recently revealed that issues such as arduous apprehension, depression and poor academic performance can all be ‘musically’ reversed and I couldn’t agree more. Now that’s where I arrest your attention.

We all have a dissimilar inner pace or rhythm. Anxiety disturbs this ‘inner peace’ (like I like to call it!) because it triggers the instinct to take flight. Anxiety is a rejoinder to fear and amounts to bottled up unexpressed energy that can trigger fight, flight or a sense of numbness.

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During this response, muscles can tighten up as if to prepare us to battle it out or to escape. This is when you need to reach out for the headphones and programme yourself: music on, world off. It’s more than okay to take a break from your gruelling routine and sink into some music. Serious drum action is what you need to get a hold of. Listen to One by Metallica to kill that awful edgy feeling that’s disrupting you from within. If you’re a Bollywood buff, listen to music that impersonates drum beats, such as rock songs by Euphoria (Phir Dhoom and Maaeri are great options).

In Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, author William Styron's autobiographical account of his struggle with depression, he describes how he planned to shoot himself but at the last minute heard the music of the German composer Johannes Brahms which saved him. His life began to mean something and he found solace in the melancholic and uplifting moods of Brahms's German Requiem.

If you suffer from insomnia or the down in the doldrums kind of state, this may be linked to stress and depression.  If you wake up too early feeling afraid, sad or lonely, try putting the radio on for company. Have the volume just low enough to hear and choose your favourite radio station. You may then drift in and out of the songs being played, and this can take you out of your isolated state. It sounds anomalous but it works!

If your kid isn’t excelling at school, don’t send him to math tuitions to further dull his/her mind. Get them guitar lessons instead or violin or the piano. Practicing a musical instrument is associated with enhanced verbal ability, the ability to work things out and improved motor coordination, reported Daily Mail. The intricate components and periods of discipline involved in becoming musically accomplished will most definitely revamp your child’s focus and you’ll thank your stars you read this piece!

Individual instrumental lessons can give kids and adults in college etc, the confidence needed to be better coordinated physically, with enhanced attention span and mental processing.


For many people, myself included, the apt, dead-on playlist is an indispensable part of their training routine and reduces negative feelings about exercise. Research has shown that music can sustain activity for longer as well as help distract from pain and fatigue. Choosing music you actually like and enjoy is the essential first step, perhaps because enjoying music will make you feel calm and unruffled and this will, in turn, boost performance.

That's why hunting for songs that have the right emotional effect on you is imperative. For some folk, the lyrics matter most. For others, it is the cadence, rhythm or tempo which creates the desire to want to move and bust it out. You will know intuitively when music is motivating you during your workout, so the key is to experiment. The first time I listened to Kanye’s Yeezus with the inauguration of a distorted track was the minute the album made its home in my self-made orchestral temple. Just saying!

Parting verses: The more you comprehend and appreciate music, the more you will discover that it is brimming with fascination which envelops your soul, baking you in a high like no other.

Now take a couple minutes off and listen to Your Body by Cat Dealers. Sorry, I just had the sudden urge to echo that…

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