Most of us have experienced the incredible, mood-altering power of music. One minute you're in a bad mood, the next you're finger-drumming along to your favorite Florence And The Machine song, feeling zen as ever.
But there's more to music than its notable ability to give us a metaphorical hug on a crummy day. Music is "much more powerful than you imagine," says Marc Neikrug, a composer of contemporary classical music who has performed in both the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Neikrug wrote his most recent composition, Healing Ceremony, with (as the title suggests) healing in mind. "I started thinking about people who get sick -- not just cancer -- but anytime someone finds out from their doctor that something is really wrong with them," he told The Huffington Post in an interview.
"I thought about the power music has over people; I wanted to write something that would change how your body feels -- helping you calm down, handle stress, get in touch with inner feelings and inner thoughts."
The composer, who has lived on a Pueblo reservation in Santa Fe, New Mexico for over two decades, incoporporated elements of the the nation's healing ceremony into his music to inspire a calmness and grounding for his listeners. "I've known the [Pueblo] culture for 25 years, their sense of the earth, of their place connected to the earth -- this is a huge factor in their way of looking at life. It's very powerful in feeling grounded," Neikrug explains.
Healing Ceremony was originally drafted to soothe cancer patients, but Neikrug found it to have an impact on people dealing with a spectrum of hardship -- particularly stress. "This is not a treatment, but it surely can put you in the right place." He explains that the right kind of music "is an antidote to your stressful feelings."
Even more, the composer says that the right beat can lower your blood pressure, slow your pulse and really put you at ease. And he's right: Music has a wide range of effects on our physical and mental health. Studies show that listening to music can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and even reduce the intensity of which we feel pain.
Neikrug suggests listening to the composition in its entirety when life feels heavy. "No, it won't make your boss a better person," he says, but it will facilitate feelings of calm. No time for the whole thing? Play the last track and "give yourself 10 minutes of a beautiful place to be in."
The next time you decide to tune in to something in order to chill out, consider your intention when you hit the play button. "People should be much more conscious of the power that music has upon all of them -- meaning your body and everything that’s going on inside of you," Neikrug suggests. "It’s not just, 'Oh this is cool -- it makes me want to dance,' it’s much more complicted than that."
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