July 12, 2012

Music positively effects a child’s environment by setting the tone for their moods and emotions. Have you ever noticed how powerful music is in influencing your emotions? Try watching a movie without any background music. You lose the whole tone and intensity that the music sets for the scene, right? Or, play some dark and depressing music and try being happy and lighthearted. It doesn’t work too well. Our emotions and actions are deeply effected by our surroundings and circumstances right down to the very tone of what we hear.

Studies have shown that we are so effected by music that it can calm and sooth a crying baby, relieve stress, and lower our blood pressure and heart rates. Music creates vibrations in the inner ear which become electrical impulses that are relayed to the area of the brain that regulates the heart rate causing the heart rate and respiration to lower. According to Rachel Mattioson, author of The Effects of Music on People’s Emotions, “studies show that music can cause changes in physiology by releasing brain chemicals including melatonin, norephinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin and prolactin, which help to reduce depression, and regulate moods”.

“Dr. Mike Miller, a research cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, has been studying the effects of happiness — or things that make people happy — on our hearts. He tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. “Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors — either by playing or even listening to music,” said Miller in a CNN article by Val Willingham, “The power of music: It’s a real heart opener”. Music can counter the effects of stress. Miller states, “It gives us an overall feeling of good, well-being — a sense of euphoria in some cases.”

The children SWAN is reaching out to experience a tremendous amount of stress. Their environment is one of tension, frustration, loss, anger, and uncertainty. They are likely to go through a number of emotions such as shame, insecurity, lack of confidence, fear, rejection, anger, and hate. Without help, encouragement and mentoring these children’s emotions often result in actions that lead them in the footsteps of their incarcerated parents. SWAN’s music programs provide that intervention in a powerful and effective way. One of our SWAN students recently stated, ” When I miss my father and am lonely, I go to my room and play my violin.  That makes me feel better.”