Activities like listening to music, singing or playing an instrument have all profound and positive impacts on an individual’s mind and wellbeing. We speak with some professionals who have gone back to music to help them ground.
Solace in music
Dr Anshuman Agarwal, Senior Consultant Urology and Robotic Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi, says “Singing is healing for me and takes away all the soreness in the body, which arises from hours of difficult surgeries. For me, singing started in my early childhood. My grandfather’s friend was a musician and he trained me for a few months although academic pressures compelled me to discontinue it. Later in college, I started learning the guitar, which helped me improve my singing. One of the hospitals I worked for promoted cultural activities, with regular singing and dancing events held. It was a departure from the rigours of patient care — very relaxing. I decided to resume learning music and it was great fun getting to know music better. More recently, even when I had COVID and was confined to a room, I did try to practice, as much as my throat permitted.”
‘It helps to connect with the soul’
“Listening to music (as per one’s choice) can lead to mood elevation and relaxation. It can help one dissociate from the surroundings while helping to connect with one’s soul. Being a doctor I am constantly surrounded by misery and problems, so listening, playing music or singing really helps me in disconnecting from those issues for a while and to help me gather myself for an uphill task. While learning may not be possible for everyone, one must try to appreciate the effort that goes into making good music. Try to invest in good equipment to enjoy the intricacies of good music. Singing is God’s gift but practice makes a singer perfect. Music is as vast as an ocean and any amount of practice is insufficient.”
‘Music helps to navigate through your emotions’
Pragnya Wakhlu, singer and songwriter, and Founder, Mousai India, says, “Most of the music I write explores themes or issues I feel strongly about or things around me that inspire me. Songs such as Flying high from my first album Journey to the sun were inspired by a bumble bee and the bumble bee theory. The bumble bee defies laws of aerodynamics, which say an object of its shape cannot fly, even as it flies anyway. The song is about realising that sometimes we as humans tend to limit our own potential due to negative self-talk or by listening to others that tell us we can’t do something. If we could all be like the bumble-bee, we would be able to fly to greater heights and release our true potential. Songs from my new album Lessons in love help people explore emotions that might leave them feeling unsettled at the time…when you hear the music it helps you understand the space better and helps you navigate through how you’re feeling.”
Everybody responds differently to sound. You have to be conscious and remain aware of how your body is responding specifically to certain sounds and see what works best for you. Make a playlist of songs that you associate with different moods to help with musical entertainment. Use the power of the human voice to play and release any unexpressed communication. You don’t have to look externally when we are all blessed with one of the most powerful instruments… the human voice. — Pragnya Wakhlu
Finding solutions in music
Nithya Rajendran, Indian classical music vocalist (Hindustani and Carnatic) and Founder, Music Vruksh, tells us that he created “Music Vruksh” as an umbrella venture for classical music training and as an initiative to spread awareness of music for wellness. “We offer lecture demonstrations, classes and workshops for individuals and corporations to understand the deeper realms of music and make it accessible for its aesthetic and wellness potential. My connection with music is deep, emotive and spiritual. It has been my confidante through thick and thin and I am so grateful for that. And this is what I want people to experience too. You embrace music and it will heal you. I have seen a chain smoker quit smoking after commencing learning Raag Megh. Another lady who had migraines for years was miraculously relieved of the pain after attending her daughter’s music lessons. The third was when in one of my concerts a person with severe depression wept uncontrollably after learning Raag Todi. She testified to feeling emotionally lighter like never before. There are many more instances but it suffices to say that we are sitting on the immense potential that Indian music has for wellness. Kids have an immense and instinctive appreciation for good music. Their sense of music is unadulterated and pure. Music appreciation inculcated very early in children has powerful developmental benefits.
‘Make music a part of life’
“One of the easiest ways to use music for wellness is to engage more actively in listening to, singing or playing and learning music. Starting with setting aside 10–15 mins a day to devote to musical activities, including swaying, clapping and dancing to music, a person can go further and start to practice emotional awareness in the presence of music. This will help the person become less at the mercy of repressed emotions. Learning an instrument or learning to sing opens up the creative channels of the brain and helps give different parts of the brain that respond to emotions and motor movements a good overall boost. The brain also releases feel good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins that help promote an overall feeling of wellbeing. The trick is to slowly and steadily but consciously make music an active part of one’s life,” says Nithya.
Did you know?
The late neurologist, Oliver Sacks in his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain argued that music is essential to being human in ways that we’ve only begun to understand. Music stimulates the brain centres that register reward and pleasure, which is why listening to your favourite songs can make you happy. There is, in fact, no single musical center in the brain, but rather multiple brain networks that analyse music when it plays, thereby giving music the power to influence everything from our mood to memory. In his seventeenth century classic The Anatomy of Melancholy, English scholar Robert Burton wrote that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia.
— The author is a lifestyle, travel and food writer to be reached at [email protected]