Caught the Corona Virus Blues? Research Shows That Music Medicine is a Powerful Antidote
Research shows that Music Medicine is a Powerful Antidote
English acoustic-physics pioneer, John Stuart Reid, explains how Music Medicine can banish the blues (and fear) associated with the corona virus, while boosting our immune system to help vanquish any pathogen.
It‘s natural to have low spirits (the blues) and to feel fear when we sense that our security or way of life may be threatened. Fear is Nature‘s way of urging us to take action and, fortunately, Nature has evolved a clever system that engages automatically within us to help save us from threats, as I will soon explain.
There‘s just one little stumbling block: the system was designed only for acute fear; Nature, it seems, didn‘t anticipate chronic fear. The corona virus situation is not the stereotypical saber-tooth tiger from which we can quickly run and hide. We can‘t run or hide from a virus, or protect ourselves from the associated socio-economic repercussions. And while watching or reading the news keeps us informed of the worldwide crisis, it is also likely to keep us in fear of the invisible viral threat, day after day, week after week.
Such chronic fear is potentially harmful because it weakens our immune system(aside from many other negative bodily effects), rendering us less able to vanquish viruses or other pathogens.
But fortunately, an antidote exists that uses another of Nature’s clever systems, one that banishes low spirits and fear and boosts our immune system. It’s drug free, has no known side effects, and can’t be overdosed.
By way of introducing this magical antidote, it’s important to know that the natural human state of fear causes the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands.1 Cortisol is sometimes called the “stress hormone“ because it helps prepare our body for dealing with stressful situations, such as providing extra glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver.2 Unfortunately, though, cortisol also suppresses our immune system 3 and other bodily systems considered by Nature to be “non-essential“ in the short term. By short term I mean that when running from the proverbial saber-tooth tiger there probably isn’t much chance of being invaded by a harmful microscopic organism.
New evidence suggests that Sabertooth tigers may have co-existed with humans upto 28,000 years ago4
Yet, our immune system is literally our only defence against viruses and other pathogens, so its suppression due to feelings of fear should not be ignored, especially if we have an underlying health condition.
The simple antidote for low spirits and fear, which Nature provided for us, is music. Not just any music, but music that calms us and brings us joy. Nature’s “music“ for our ancient ancestors was provided in a variety of ways, such as psithurism (the sound of the wind in the trees and rustling leaves), the sound of birdsong and bees, tinkling streams and rhythmic waves breaking on the shore, and the sound of our own humming or singing. Music plays a large part in the human experience, and its basic components–sound and rhythm–have always been present on earth, a fact that was poetically encapsulated by Allan C. Inman:
“I am music, most ancient of the arts. I am more than ancient; I am eternal… Even before life began upon this Earth, I was here–in the winds and waves… [and] whenhumanity came, I at once became the most delicate, subtle, and powerful medium for the expression of emotions.” 5
Around 40,000 years ago humanity’s innate intelligence provided the ability to fashion the earliest known musical instruments: flutes made from bird bones and mammoth ivory were found in 2008 in a Stone Age cave in southern Germany.6
Photograph by H. Jenen, courtesy University of Tübingen, Germany
But returning to the main theme of this article, how to banish corona virus blues, there are many ways to help calm our nerves such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, gardening, all forms of creativity, and dancing. Yet, one of the most powerful antidotes to stress and fear is listening to our favorite music, or if we are a musician or vocalist, making it ourselves.
And nowhere was this message carried better than from the streets of Italy. Quoting from the UK’s Classic FM web site, posted on March 16: “You can’t quarantine music…Italy plays and sings from balconies in locked-down cities. Since the country was completely quarantined last week following the coronavirus outbreak…musicians, singers and music lovers share beautiful performances from their balconies”.