Here’s How Music can Cure You

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

When most of us think of music we think of it as a means of entertainment. However, the reality is that music can be so much more than entertaining, in fact, it can be used as a critical tool by medical professionals to help patients with a wide range of conditions.

Music therapy is basically the use of music to help patients with various physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. Music therapy can be of benefit to people with dementia, brain injuries, respiratory problems, chronic pain and many other problems. 

Music therapy is not just given by random doctors and nurses there are professionals called music therapists who have rigorously studied this form of treatment. Music therapists work in a wide range settings including hospitals, community health centers, drug rehab centers, senior centers, nursing homes and schools. 

Here are just some of the ways that music therapy can help patients:

Regaining the Abillity to Move

Music therapy is very useful for patients who suffer from brain injuries such as car accidents, assaults, gun shot wounds, falls, stroke, lack of oxygen to the brain, etc. Often these patients are left with limited mobility. Rhythmic entertainment is used to help these patients gradually start to move again. 

Such patients are asked to listen to strong rhythmically accentuated music. Rhythmic entertainment works by locking the motor systems rhythm to an external auditory source. This works because there is actually a rich connection beteeen our auditory system and our motor system. We all have an “internal timekeeper” that helps us regulate our movements. When this “internal timekeeper” is damaged as a result of the injury the internal timing system can be retrained and the brain can gradually adjust itself and the patient can regain much of the lost ability. As an example the patient walks to the beat of the music starting off with slow tempo music and then gradually working their way up as their ability improves. 

Regaining the Abillity to Speak 

After certain types of brain injuries, some patients are no longer able to speak but music therapy can help them regain this vital ability. One prominent example of this is Gaby Giffords. As some of you may know Gaby Giffords was a member of the U.S. Congress who was tragically shot in the head in 2011. 

Due to damage to the language pathways in the left side of her brain Gaby Giffords was not able to speak after the injury. The good news for Gaby was that music, singing in particular, accesses language in a way that is different from talking.

Gaby started seeing a music therapist on a regular basis and she started being able to sing the words that she could not speak. After many regular sessions her brain started to reorganize and she gradually started to speak again!

Music therapy is a great tool for patients with damage to the left side of their brain because it helps the patient regain the abillity to speak by helping patients retrain their brain to use the right side of their brain to learn language. 

Reducing Effects of Dementia

Listening to music can help Dementia patients by bringing back memories and emotions. It can also reduce the stress of Dementia patients and it can help them more easily communicate with their healthcare staff. Listening to music can also help Dementia patients better interact with each other by discussing the memories and feelings evoked by the music.

With Dementia patients, songs from the patients young adult years (ages 18 to 25) are especially helpful because they’re most likely to evoke reactions and memories. However, unfamiliar music can also aid in relaxation and stress management.

Active participation in music can also be helpful for Dementia patients.  Studies have shown that Dementia patients who regularly sing have improved cognitive abillity and an increased life satisfaction. 

Easing Asthma Symptoms:

Active music therapy can be very helpful for children who suffer from asthma. One study compared the effects of asthmatic children singing to another group of asthmatic children who passively listened to music. The results showed that the group that sang had better breathing and overall more positive mood than the group that just passively listened to music. 

Playing a wind instrument can be especially helpful for asthma patients. Studies have shown that playing a wind instrument trains and improves the muscles involved in breathing. Playing a wind instrument can help asthma patients develop a relaxed breathing rhythm that can help them stay calm and focused during an asthma attack. Other studies have found that students who play wind instrument are more optimistic about their asthma and are less likely to have an athmaic episode. 

Helping Child Cancer Patients:

Studies show that music therapy music therapy has a positive effect on children who are hospitalized due to having cancer. Unfortunately, music therapy cannot cure cancer but it can improve the feelings of these young patients. Studies show that music therapy led students to have more positive feelings. Children who were more actively involved in music therapy (as judged by the music therapist) showed greater improvement. 

Basically music therapy can be effective in helping a young child cope with a tragic situation such as cancer. Some studies have shown that music therapy can improve the overall quality of life in these young cancer patients. 

Doctors and Music:

As a side note, in the healthcare field, patients are not the only ones who listen to music. A recent poll of 700 surgeons throughout the United States revealed that nearly 90 percent of them report that they listen to music in the operating room as it calms their nerves and helps increase the operating staffs morale. Of course, they do turn it down during the important parts of the operation.

It is amazing how much music therapy can truly help a wide range of patients without any of the negative side effects of some other treatments.

With Love,

Yasmin

The Power of Meaning 

Hey Everyone! 

Hope you’re all doing well!

I recently watched a very inspirational TED Talk titled: There’s is More to Life than Being Happy by Emily Esfahani Smith

Basically, the major point of her TED Talk is that those who are truly at peace with their lives are not the ones who chase after happiness rather they are the ones who find meaning in their lives.  She describes how the famous Psychologist Martin Seligman describes meaning as coming from, belonging to and serving something beyond ourselves, and from developing the best within ourselves. 

In her talk Esfahani Smith describes statistics about how, for many people in the U.S, the quality of life has improved by almost every standard, yet the suicide rate has reached an all time high. She attributes this to a lack of meaning and she also cites statistics that mention that those who do have meaning in their lives are more resilient, do better in school and in work and they even live longer. 

Esfahani Smith spent five years doing research about how we can find meaning in our lives and she came up with the following four pillars of meaning: (The following is a very brief description of the pillars)

Belonging: Being in relationships and having relationships in which you are valued intrinsically for who you are and you value others for who they are. True belonging comes from relationships that are based on love and they are based on your choice, you choose to cultivate belonging with others.

Purpose: Many people find their purpose through their work however, finding your  purpose is not exactly the same as finding a job that makes you happy. Purpose is less about what you want and more about what you give to others. The key to purpose is using your strength to help others. 

Transcendence: She describes transcendent states as being those rare moments in which we are lifted above the normal hustle and bustle of daily life. It is when our sense of self fades away and we feel connected to a higher reality.  In transcendent experiences you lose all sense of time and place and these experiences can change you to become a better person. For each person transcendence can come from a different source. Some people may experience it through their house of worship others can experience it through other means such as art, athletics, writing, etc. (To me personally transcendence sounds a lot like what psychologists refer to as flow). 

Story Telling: She describes this as the story that you tell yourself about yourself. We are authors of our own stories and we can change the way we tell them. She argues that our lives are not just a series of events but we can edit and interpret our stories even when we are constrained by the facts. The point of story telling is to help us reevaluate our lives and see ourselves and our lives from a more positive perspective. She gives the example of an injured football player who was left paralyzed as a result of his injury. In the aftermath of the injury, he described his life as being good before the injury and being pretty bad after the injury. After some time had passed he re-evaluated his story to describe his life before the injury as being a life in which he lack purpose and meaning and he was only concerned with himself. However, after the injury he has a greater appreciation for life and he has found his purpose in life which is to help others. 

This TED Talk was definitely an eye opener for me. Being a student of positive psychology I have read a lot of books and articles on the importance of attaining happiness and how we can be happier in fact I wrote a post a while ago about a book on happiness. I do still recommend that book and I will definitely continue to read positive psychology books and articles on happiness because I feel that there is a lot that we can learn and apply in our lives. Also, because positive psychology as a field is determined to study and understand happiness and wellbeing from a scientific perspective. 

However, it’s also really nice to know that there is something more long lasting that can help us deal with any stage or event in our lives. It is impossible for most of us to be happy all the time but having a sense of meaning, in my opinion, is much more powerful because it gives us something to rely on in moments of joy and sorrow. 

Click here to watch this TED Talk.
With love,

Yasmin

Study Finds 99 Percent of NFL Players Have This Disease

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

A recent study published in the JAMA medical journal revealed that the majority of American football players developed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This study is very significant because it is the largest study to ever be conducted on this topic. football-380388_640

Since CTE is a disease that can only be diagnosed after death, this study involved studying the brain autopsies of 202 football players. Out of these 202 players, 177 of them were diagnosed with CTE.

Within this sample some were high school football players, some were college football players and 111 of these were NFL football players. A shocking 99 percent (110 out of 111) of these NFL players developed CTE. Take a look at this very informative CNN article to learn more about the impact and limitations of this study.

CTE is a degenerative brain disorder which means that the symptoms will continually deteriorate over time. Currently, at this time CTE has no known cure. Aside from American Football players CTE is also found in:

  • Boxers
  • Wrestlers
  • Rugby Players
  • Ice Hockey Players
  • War veterans with a history of blast or concussive injury.
  • People who repeatedly bang their heads
  • People who have been physically abused
  • People with uncontrolled epilepsy

CTE is primarily caused by multiple head injuries which cause concussions. A concussion occurs when an individual gets a violent blow to the head which causes the brain to slam against the skull. For example, when football players get a concussion they are usually hit by speeds that range from 17 to 25 miles per hour which is more than 90 times the speed of gravity.

The impact of a concussion can cause bruising of the brain, torn blood vessels, and nerve damage. Some of the immediate symptoms of a concussion include confusion, amnesia, loss of consciousness, ringing in the ears, and nausea and vomiting.

According to the Mayo Clinic the following are some of the symptoms of CTE:

  • Trouble thinking (Cognitive Impairment)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression or apathy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function)
  • Emotional Instability
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for CTE but preventative steps can be taken. Since CTE is primarily caused by concussions it is vital to take steps to ideally prevent concussions from occurring in the first place or at least, prevent further injury after a concussion.

Many athletes can benefit from sport specific helmets and riders can benefit from bicycle and motorcycle helmets. These helmets may not completely prevent concussions however, research has shown that they can reduce the occurrence of dangerous brain injuries.

This past week many news outlets have been reporting the results of this study and I hope that this post helps to give a bit more information about Chronic Traumatic  Encephalopathy.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

 

Top 6 Signs of Abnormal Behavior

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

anxiety-1337383_640I think that due to a wider acceptance of psychology as an important field of study and of course, thanks to the internet, more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of some of the basic signs and/or symptoms of the major psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) etc.

While I think that this increasing awareness is great, one possible downside is that sometimes people use their limited knowledge to diagnose themselves or others as having certain mental disorders.

We all have certain quirky or peculiar habits and behaviors and we all go through different emotions however, this does not automatically mean that we have some sort of mental disorder.

Here are the 6 most common criterion that psychologists often use to determine if certain behaviors are abnormal and possibly a sign of an underlying mental disorder.

Unusualness:

One sign of possibly abnormal behavior is behavior that is unusual. One example would be going through extreme anxiety inside of a crowded elevator. One important thing to point out is that unusual should not be mistaken for uncommon. For example, there are many people who are very talented in one particular way and may be able to do things that the rest of us cannot do, however, this definitely does not mean that their behavior is abnormal.

Social Deviance:

As many of us know, every culture and society has its own set of norms and standards of appropriate and acceptable behaviors in any given situation. For example, in the U.S. and other Western societies giving eye contact to the person you’re talking to is an absolute necessity. However, there are some other cultures in which giving direct eye contact may be considered inappropriate or in extreme cases can be seen as a sign of disrespect.

Misinterpreting Reality:

An example of this would be hallucinating, where we see and hear things that are not present. Another example would be having the delusion that someone is out to get you. It is important to consider cultural norms. Hearing and seeing things that are not present is certainly considered abnormal in our culture, however, in certain other cultures, such as the Native American culture this may be seen as a perfectly normal or even as a spiritual experience.

Significant Personal Distress:

This is when an individual is always feeling  one or more  negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. Of course, we all go through our fair share of ups and downs and its totally normal to go through negative emotions. Having such emotions can be considered abnormal when these negative emotions are persistent for a very long period of time.

Maladaptive or Self-Defeating Behaviors

These are the types of behaviors that prevent an individual from properly fulfilling his or her roles and responsibilities. An example would be a person who consistently drinks too much alcohol and as a result is no longer able to function properly at work and/or in their interpersonal relationships. Also, any type of behavior that is a self-defeating behavior is considered abnormal. For example, there are people that have Agoraphobia which is basically a fear of going outside the house.

Dangerousness:  

I think this one is pretty obvious. Any type of behavior that is a danger to ourselves or others is abnormal. Of course, the social context is important. In times of war, soldiers or others who risk their lives for the greater good are rightfully praised. Unfortunately, certain actions that could potentially harm innocent civilians are also considered normal due to the wartime context. A slightly unrelated but important point to be made is that contrary to popular opinion the overwhelming majority of people with a mental disorder are not a danger to society.

I would just really like to emphasize that the six criteria mentioned above are just some of the many criterion  that mental health professionals use to judge whether a behavior is abnormal.

Meeting one or more of these criterion certainly does not mean that there is anything wrong with you. Only an experienced mental health professional can make a true and accurate judgment. This post is only for informational purposes.

With Love,

Yasmin

The #1 Myth about Stress

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!stress

Stress needs know no introduction. We have all been through some sort of a major stressful episode in our lives and many of us face some form of stress on a daily basis. We have also heard of how dangerous stress can be for both our physical and mental health and well-being.

However, Stanford University lecturer and health psychologist Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. argues that it is not the actual stress that is dangerous for us and can make us sick rather, it is how we think about and perceive stress that can make it harmful for us.

She cites a study conducted in 2012. This study tracked 30,000 Americans for a total of eight years. Towards the end of each year the participants were asked two questions. First they were asked: “How much stress have you experienced in the past year? Then they were asked: “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?”.  Each year researchers used public death records to find out how many of these people died that year.

As we might expect the people who reported that they experienced a lot of stress in the last year had a 43 percent increased risk of death.

However, this increased risk of death was only true for the people who also believed that stress was harmful for their health.

The people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view this stress as being harmful were not more likely to die. These people actually had the lowest rate of death compared to everyone else in the study (even compared to those who had only a little bit of stress but viewed stress as being harmful).

The researchers of this study generalized the results of this study to the overall American population and they estimated that each year nearly 20,000 people die not from the actual stress but the belief that stress is harmful for them.

The major takeaway from this research is that changing how we think about stress can make us healthier and actually improve our stress response.

When we are going through a stressful episode we experience certain physiological changes such as a faster heart rate, faster breathing and sweating. Normally, we interpret these physical changes as a sign of weakness and thus we may start getting anxiety.

Now that we are equipped with this new knowledge, the next time we are experiencing a stressful episode and we are experiencing our heart pounding or any other signs of stress we should practice thinking of these signs as helping energize our body and helping us to face the challenge that we are about to face.

In fact, a study done by Harvard University demonstrates that thinking differently about our stress response really does help us deal with the stress in a healthier manner. In this study participants were taught to view their stress response as being helpful and not dangerous. Then when the experiment started they were all placed in a stressful environment (they had to perform various challenging tasks such as arithmetic in front a number of “judges”). The results of the experiment showed that those who viewed their stress response as being helpful were less anxious, less stressed out, and more confident.

Perhaps one of the most interesting findings of this Harvard study was that those who viewed stress in a positive manner had their physical stress response actually change. Under normal stressful conditions when our hearts are pounding, our blood vessels really tighten up and constrict themselves and over the course of a lifetime this type of stress reaction can lead to heart disease. Those with a positive attitude about stress still had a pounding heart however, their blood vessels were much more relaxed and this is a much healthier state to be in.

Without a doubt, long-term stress or a lifetime of stress, can cause health complications however, this research gives us hope that we can prevent some of the detrimental effects of stress by simply changing the way we think about stress.

With Love,

Yasmin