THE HEALING POWER OF MUSIC~There's nothing quite like the feeling of just switching off and giving yourself over to the power of music — it can stir our emotions, trigger our memories and even give way to some wild dance floor moves.
But music's magic doesn't stop there, for some it's a form of therapy and that's what our reporter Leila McKinnon is focusing on — the healing power of music.
Music as a healing therapy took off during World War II. Doctors noticed that wounded and shell-shocked soldiers had better rehabilitation rates when they were exposed to music.
To find out more, Leila pays a visit to the California State University to meet music therapist Ron Borczon.
"Music therapy is using music to help people improve something in their life or get better," explains Ron.
Consider the case of Debbie Clarke and her autistic son, Adam. As a youngster, Adam barely spoke a word.
"We created a music program around me pushing him on a big drum like he was on a train, because he loved trains. One day I said 'okay, what does the conductor say?' And he said 'All aboard!' And it was like 'I can't believe I just heard that'. He just shouted it and that was the beginning of him really speaking out loud," says Ron.
"It was like opening the floodgates, he was just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. I knew it was always in his head, but music opened the door," says mum Debbie.
Music therapy works wonders for Adam, but what about the rest of us?
Leila has decided to put it to the test with Ron. She sits in Ron's Sonatron chair, which has five built-in speakers that immerse you in music. Ron will also hook Leila up to a heart rate monitor on his laptop.
"The heart rate actually changes with your emotions, and so this helps measure that," he says.
As he plays different tracks, the machine will let him know how the music is affecting Leila's mood.
"This computer has a program in it that's going to monitor the variability of your heart rate and also what's going on between beats and it's going to give an indicator of how music makes you feel," says Ron.
The first track starts — which is R&B. Ron is looking for Leila's body's musical sweet spot. This first piece of music has Leila's heart rate at 60, which is about average for her.
What happens when Leila listens to music that she doesn't like?
A hard-rock piece starts playing. Leila's heart rate jumps to 78 beats per minute — that's more than a 25 percent increase.
"And I can feel myself getting stressed out," says Leila.
"Some things Leila felt much stronger, in a positive way and other things she felt very negatively and we saw that with the computer readout," says Ron.
But Leila loves the third track — her heart rate's down to 50 beats per minute, which is a huge drop and all that stress has just drained away.
"By far this is the strongest piece for you emotionally. Putting you in a good space emotionally," says Ron to Leila.
"Nylon string classical guitar, slow movement, beautiful major tonalities have a wonderful effect on your heart and your body, so that maybe you can start gathering a collection of music like that, to use when you're on the road, or when you're stressed out, and you can listen to that to help you get into a better zone."
Ron's advice is to take music with you but whenever possible try to listen to it without headphones — so you get the whole body experience. He also recommends picking up an instrument, any instrument, and learning to play.
Everything about us is musical and so when we hear music and when we experience music, it very easily resonates with our body and our spirit and our feelings — and that's just got to be good for you!
Why do supermarkets play music? It's designed to relax you so you'll buy more. In fact, one supermarket chain found that by playing slow, rather than fast music, sales increased by almost 40 percent!