I have used music as therapy in my work and seen its uplifting effects on people with a range of problems, including depression, autism, dementia, schizophrenia and even mutism (alogia – a negative symptom of schizophrenia). It literally and metaphorically gives a voice to people who find communication difficult. It can also provide a stimulus for conversation that moves beyond talking about symptoms.
I’ve also observed its effects on myself – both in terms of lifting my mood and helping me to sleep. When I wake up early (which I frequently do) I play instruments in my head for about half an hour to lift my mood and distract me, and then I follow this with a meditation exercise where I let thoughts flow in and out of my mind without dwelling on them. It’s a bit like taking an upper and then a downer – I think the music lifts my mood and then the meditation reduces anxiety by reducing stimulation in my brain. At other times when I play the guitar I feel the soothing effects of the bodily movements that playing the guitar can stimulate – it’s a kind of swaying motion. I often feel frustrated because of my stammer/voice problem and singing in particular gives a sense of release from this frustration. I think that done correctly singing can strengthen the voice, which is why it is often included in speech therapy programmes.