According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)National Health Survey, there were approximately 4.8 million Australians with a mental or behavioural condition in 2017–18. Pretty staggering number, huh?
Along with increased awareness about the commonality of mental health issues and the importance of speaking out (just check out how many celebs have shared their struggles with mental health), lately there has been a focus on developing different treatments, supports and services to treat those who need help.
While exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet has been known to help boost mental health and wellbeing, music therapy is increasingly becoming a welcome alternative pathway to help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and improve our quality of life.
Research has shown that listening to music can actually help regulate our moods – whether it’s helping stay calm in a stressful situation, or listening to something soothing to help us fall asleep.
You can now download apps that focus on protecting or improving your mental health by using methods including meditation, hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, and music therapy. One such app is Humm.ly – a guided meditation app that combines music and mindfulness techniques to help support those with anxiety or depression.
Humm.ly offers a wide range of music therapy sessions, including ones with guided meditation routines set to calming music, as well as sessions of calming music without guided meditation. These sessions are grouped into seven different sections - Featured, Music, Daily Routine, Grow, Relax, Inspire, and Favourites - making it easy to navigate through the app and find the sessions that you are looking for.
Founder Joanna Yu says, “In addition to these sessions, the Humm.ly app also includes a number of other features such as positive affirmations that are sent to your phone each morning and a system that both tracks your meditation progress and rewards consistency.”
“The best part about Humm.ly, though, is the music found in the sessions,” explains Yu. Yu partnered with board-certified music therapists and music producers to create Humm.ly’s meditation features, which can tackle everything from sleep deprivation to public speaking and social anxiety.
“Humm.ly operates on the theory that music is a powerful, healing force that can improve mental health - especially when combined with meditation. The ISO principle - the idea that music can positively affect a person's mood and outlook - has been a cornerstone of music therapy for some time now. However, Humm.ly is one of the first apps to capitalise on this principle and combine it with guided meditation in order to create sessions that are a true joy to listen to,” says Yu.
The benefits of music therapy for mental health
Research shows the benefits of music therapy programs for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (just to name a few). Music therapy services (whether conducted by a registered music therapist or an app) can be offered as a preventative measure, a stand-alone therapeutic process, or alternatively, as an adjunct to other standard treatments in mental health care facilities.
Yu says the use of music can have powerful and diverse psychological effects on people's self-esteem. “We know that music has the ability to influence human behaviour in ways that are observable and identifiable,” she says. “By harnessing proven principles from the field of music therapy, Humm.ly is able to use the power of music to lay a foundation for numerous therapeutic applications. There exists strong, science-backed evidence that music therapy can be used for mood enhancement, for anxiety and stress relief, and as a sleep aid.”
“For over 50 years, the field of music therapy has researched how music can be a powerful tool for affecting cognition and mood. Music therapists use music to help people reach their wellness goals. A fundamental concept of music as therapy is the ISO principle. Established as a means of mood management, the ISO principle is the process of matching an individual's mood and supporting a transition to a different mood state,” says Yu.
“For example, a music therapist would begin by playing slow music in a minor key for an individual expressing a depressed mood. Throughout the session, the music therapist would gradually increase tempo and change to a major key as the individual reacted to the music.”
“Conversely, an agitated individual would be met with loud, syncopated music from the music therapist before gradually transitioning to slower music at a quieter volume,” she explains. Emotions evoked by music are biologically similar to regularly occurring emotions, therefore it is crucial that the music supports the individual as their mood changes from agitated or depressed to relaxed or content.”
Music therapy apps to try
To get you started, we’ve pulled together some of the best music therapy apps that make daily mindfulness and meditation practices easier than ever.
Price: Free to download. $40.99 for premium yearly subscription.
When you first open the app, you'll enter a library filled with a variety of ‘sessions’, which include music tracks without meditations (for those who are a fan of non-verbal mindfulness practices), as well as meditation sessions paired with a range of music. Whether you’re a full-time ball of stress who is just looking to relax, or someone who is simply struggling to concentrate or create at work, there’s a track for you. Humm.ly also has a unique ‘honey points’ system that makes the whole mindfulness and meditation thing fun. After completing each session you’ll get rewarded with honey points – and the more honey points you get, the more tracks and videos you unlock.
Price: Free to download.
Feel like playing instruments? This musical experience program is a goodie for people of any age. Cove is a unique app that allows you to pick a mood and then express yourself through music. It basically lets you create your own therapeutic music and save it to your own library so you can listen to it later (it's kind of like a music-making app). You simply tap the screen to add chords, melody or percussion, or swipe to choose from over 30 different musical instruments. Cove allows you to make music by yourself, or share what you make with others. Psst...there's no musical skill required!
Price: Free to download. $79.99 for premium access
While not strictly a music therapy app, Calm offers a range of different programs with relaxing music and guided meditations for people experiencing stress and anxiety. Whether you’ve never tried meditation before or regularly practice, you’ll find the perfect program for you.
If you’re looking for apps to up your health and fitness game, check out the best workout apps of 2019.
What do you think of music therapy? Would you try it? Let us know in the comment section below.
Main image credit: @laurenhenshaw
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.