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Music Wellness Programs: Merging Self-Responsible Strategies

Judith Pinkerton

A well dressed man listening to an iPod, pretending to conduct an orchestra.

Noted cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton reports that over 95 percent of all disease-related ailments in this country are created by stress. It has been found that 18.8 million American adults suffer from depressive disorders. Studies have also found that the nearly 40 million Americans who suffer from exaggerated worry and tension are six times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are not similarly afflicted.  It has been estimated that medical costs associated with treating stress, depression, and anxiety exceed $300 billion annually.

The corporate challenge is monumental in reducing these costs.  How does one educate, influence, and guide a group of people to make responsible choices and changes in the way they eat, sleep, work, move and live?  New and better wellness strategies are constantly sought to preserve good health and decrease the risks of developing health problems.

Only recently has music started to take the lead in major wellness campaigns.  Kaiser-Permanente is a forerunner in advocating music for health with a Kaiser-Permanente radio spot first aired on 9/8/10 encouraging a daily dose of song to help make employees “feel better.”  Their wellness campaign is “Move to the music—and improve your mood.”  What do they recommend to feel better? Some of the artists used in the program include (but are not limited to): Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones, Jack Johnson, and Sam Hinton. Music available in special products for stress reduction or other problems may, or may not work. The product’s success depends upon the listener’s reaction to the guided imagery, voice, music genre, music mood, and musical instruments.What if the these recommendations don’t work for you? What may stop pain for me may create pain for others.  What’s missing in wellness recommendations? Generational differences, genre preferences, and appropriate music playlists for specific health conditions (and activities) remain a constant thought. Most people associate “feel better” music with the mood they want to feel (such as greater relaxation or happiness).  Or, they think that “healing” music is “spa” music.  These ideas may not be the most effective way to reduce stress, anxiety, worry, tension, anger, sadness and depression. These recommendations for music to “feel better” may work; and then again they may serve as band-aids or increase the problem(s). There are many conflicting research studies about what music to recommend.

More reflective questions can guide the best choices. When do you choose to listen to music? How do you feel when listening? Where are you when you make a decision? How do you feel after you listen to the music?  These questions provide deeper responses that guide better-informed decisions about what and when to listen to music.  The successful music wellness program educates and provides resources to its employees, harnessing music’s power to be a supportive medicine for any condition or activity.

The Corporate Wellness Magazine recently featured two important areas for successful wellness programs that relate directly to music used as medicine: responsibility and strategies.

“The Truth About Responsibility” (Issue 30, 2012) cites corporations as the “virtual parent with the thankless task of trying to get employees to do what’s best for their own health: eat well, exercise and get regular checkups.”  When applying song as medicine, the issue of responsibility is paramount.  In the mid-90’s Time Warner was in litigation for allegations that their songs motivated a murder. When Tupacs’ manager asked me if Tupac’s tune could have motivated that young man to kill the policeman, I said “Yes!”  However, self-responsibility must be accepted.  Musicians do create songs out of their experiences. Consumers do identify with musicians, their music and their conditions.  Ultimately, it is the consumer’s responsibility to make good choices about their music listening habits. Don’t listen to music that will motivate you to be injurious to yourself or others.  Is it the corporation’s responsibility to monitor conditions for music used as medicine?  Guidelines would be the best course of action.

When implementing guidelines,  analyze the program’s inclusion of recommended “Strategies for Success” ( Issue 30, 2012).  Pete Thomas’ seven strategies for wellness program success identify essential components of personalization, education, motivation, perspiration, repetition, collaboration and inspiration. Guidelines can be created from these strategies for the successful program that supports melody being used as a supportive medicine. Powerful medicine strategies can change  listening habits that support employee wellness. Consider a program that embraces these strategies:

  • Personalization respects preferred genres.
  • Education over-rides instincts.
  • Motivation creates healthy listening habits.
  • Perspiration increases with specialized music prescriptions used during physical workouts.
  • Repetition transforms lives.
  • Collaboration builds effective music medicine libraries with specific playlists.
  • Inspiration is contagious, spreading positive attitudes, collaboration, productivity, happiness, peace of mind, self-awareness and empathy.

Typically, corporations do not correlate listening habits with employee health, work environment or corporate return on investment.  Do your employees listen to music that keeps them trapped in stress, anxiety, frustration or disappointment? Do your employees purposefully use music to increase productivity, happiness, and/or positive attitudes?  As you reflect on your answers and would like to improve conditions, consider implementing a program that targets these areas.

  • decrease turnover
  • reduce sick days
  • shrink worker compensation claims
  • improve employee moods
  • increase customer satisfaction
  • boost sales

The Muzak Corporation was a forerunner targeting a songs effect to calm elevator fears.  Since then, elevator fear seems to be the least of employee concerns.  You don’t have to be a soldier in Iraq to experience trauma.  People seem to be challenged daily with trauma from work, family, finances or natural disasters.  Entertainment “as usual” with typical listening habits may only provide a band-aid for real life problems.  Las Vegas, in spite of its position as “Entertainment Capital of the World,” has become number one in the country for unemployment and foreclosures, which has led to its number one spot for stress. Widespread use of song used differently could deal more effectively with problems.

The real problem: people’s instincts drive their choices. Our natural instincts may create listening habits that lock in problematic moods or repressed moods. How does that happen? Instincts drive our song choices that match a mood, or avoid a mood, which may compound stress, anxiety, frustrations, depression or other unsettled moods.

How can you use music differently? There is another outcome, in addition to feeling better, that distinguishes music as medicine. That outcome is developing emotional fluidity: the ability to fluidly flow through all emotions without getting trapped in problem moods or repressed moods. Effective daily listening selects songs in a mood continuum that results in a catharsis (cleansing emotions).

As an example, Olivia experienced anxiety attacks and listened to alternative rock predominantly.  When she committed to a daily listening regimen which exercised all her moods and expanded her music genres, her anxiety, stomach and head pains subsided, along with peace and joy increasing.  Noah’s experience resulted in music medicine complementing medication.  He experienced a chronic, painful condition with his doctor recommending relaxation techniques to support the pain medication. For two years, the techniques didn’t work. He was still in chronic pain using pain medication. After ten days listening to a music medicine program, his emotional tension was reduced. This supported the doctor’s desired outcome for the pain medication: John was pain-free.

Music is a powerful tool that affects our moods, behavior and physiology. When employees are educated about what, when, where and how to listen as medicine, they become more self-aware, educated (beyond their instincts), motivated, engaged and happier! The possibilities for self-satisfaction are endless and untapped: recommended music for use as medicine is found in all genres.  Reap the potential benefits:

  • reduce trauma
  • diminish stress
  • minimize anger
  • reverse depression
  • lessen anxiety
  • heal loss

 

About The Author

Judith Pinkerton is a licensed, board-certified music therapist with over twenty years experience providing music medicine programs. As Founder/CEO of Music 4 Life, Inc., she merges song and wellness industries onto the same wellness platform as nutrition and exercise with prevention, wellness programs and products scalable for use in diverse settings.  Access free podcasts of the Music4Life® Radio Show on iTunes.  For orders, consultations and motivational presentations, contact:
judith@music4life.us

(702) 889-2881; www.music4life.us

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