How Playing an Instrument Can Help Improve Your Mental Health

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘music therapy’? If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth looking into, as some of the most prominent musicians and researchers of the 20th century believe it can have a huge impact on our mental health and well-being.


What is Music Therapy?


The idea of music acting as a healing influence is a concept that’s been around since the writings of Aristotle and Plato, but it wasn’t until the 20th century when it took on any real meaning. After World War I and II, musicians, both professional and amateurs, would visit veteran hospitals to play for them. When the doctors and nurses caring for patients recovering from both physical and emotional traumas noticed how well their patients were responding to the music, they started hiring permanent musicians to play for them.


As interest in this field of recovery grew, educational programs started to emerge, offering insights and training both into the miraculous concept of music therapy and into the study of how it worked.


There were three men who were key players in the development of music therapy as an organised clinical profession in the 1940s. Psychiatrist Ira Altshuler, MD, promoted music therapy in Michigan for three decades, while Willem van de Wall pioneered the use of music therapy in state-funded facilities and wrote the first "how to" music therapy text, Music in Institutions (1936). E. Finally, Thayer Gaston, known as the "father of music therapy," was instrumental in moving the profession forward from an organisational and educational standpoint. 


Now, music therapy is widely recognised across most of the modern world. Defined by the Australian Music Therapy Association as:


“A research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people as they strive to improve their health, functioning and well-being.”


Professional music therapists incorporate a range of musical methods to create a therapeutic relationship. It varies from music education in the sense it focuses on health, functioning and well-being.


Can the Benefits of Music Therapy Translate to Learning an Instrument?


It is widely believed that learning to play an instrument, or just listening to music can offer a number of mental health benefits. It can:


-       Improve your mood and elevate your motivation

-       Assist relaxation

-       Increase the efficiency of your brain processing


Music can also be used on a day-to-day basis to assist with your focus. Classical music, in particular, has been linked to improved brain function and concentration, while any style of music, both playing and listening, can assist with expression and help you to process your emotions.


Links to creativity, relaxation and social benefits have also been made.


The best way to truly immerse yourself in music and get the benefits out of it is to learn to play one first-hand. If this is something you enjoy, you’ll experience a connection with the music that’s completely unique to what you feel when you’re just listening to it.


If you’re ready to get started with your chosen instrument, get in contact with the team at Music Mart today!