Music is all around us and a part of daily life, whether we choose to listen to it or come across it playing in shops or restaurants that we visit. Prehistoric humans had music in their lives despite it not being essential for survival like hunting and shelter. Old bone flutes and many cave paintings of instruments from prehistoric times have been found around the world.
Occupational therapy is all about the art and science of living, what we do makes us who we are and music has a lot of meaning to us. We can self regulate by using music so if we need to do household chores we may put on something fast and upbeat, if we want to relax or go to sleep we may play something soothing and slow.
Music is also used to distract ourselves, for example when you are kept on hold on the phone or when waiting in a surgery there is often background music playing.
Music can also serve as company for us, at work, at home and in the car. It gives us an identity through our record collections and our spotify feed. It often helps to bring memories back or enables us to communicate emotions.
It is also an entertainment and is part of every celebration. The presence of music in our lives shows how important it is and how different meaning is incorporated through music.
Learning to play an instrument strengthens the synapses between the brain cells which has a positive impact on our sensory and perceptual systems, cognition, gross and fine motor skills, co-ordination and learning memory. All these benefits when we can be having fun, and enjoying ourselves when we are playing our instruments!
I am doing a sound therapy course and have had to buy more instruments to complete the course. Purchasing instruments as been great therapy, before the sound therapy even starts! As I sit typing I am surrounded by gongs, crystal bowls, a range of precision, the harps of course, nobody is ever far away from a harp in this house, and the old Joanna – cockney rhyming slang for piano.
As an occupational therapist I am approaching sound therapy from a therapeutic activity perspective. As part of my course I have had to learn to play these new instruments and engage my senses with them. Some of the sounds are ethereal. Hearing them for the first time is an incredible experience, and not one that the mind or body first knows how to process as there is no previous experience of it to go on. That’s my experience of it anyway, and what a fantastic experience, the older I get the harder it seems to be able to experience things for the first time. I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground so that does limit my choices, no bungee jumping for me thank you.
I find playing the instruments is energising, and having them next to my desk is the perfect antidote for any mid morning or afternoon slump and serves me better than any coffee would.
Making music is powerful stuff, and energising activity, why isn’t if on prescription?