Music Therapy for Mental Health and Better Code

What would life be like without music? Much research has been conducted on the mental health benefits that some sounds have upon the human soul. However, not all music is equal in its ability to calm the nerves, relieve stress and increase efficient mental function. Some music actually has a jarring effect on the mind and a negative impact on overall wellness. A study published by the PubMed titled The effects of different types of music on mood, tension, and mental clarity found that “With grunge rock music, significant increases were found in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue, and significant reductions were observed in caring, relaxation, mental clarity, and vigor.”

Music therapy has been used to manage numerous physical and mental disease states.

It is unsurprisingly a subject of much medical research and study. However, not all genres of music are equal and have varying effects on neurological function. According to Science Daily, “listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and down-regulated the genes mediating neurodegeneration.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150313083410.htm

Studies have been conducted on how the brain responds to classical music. The positive outcome on cognitive function, learning and mental health fostered by listening to Mozart’s music in particular is summarized through the findings of the “Mozart Effect.” Although, scientific opinion is mixed with regard to the ability of Mozart’s music to permanently increase neurological function, studies have overwhelmingly concluded that it does have a positive effect on spatial reasoning. According to a study conducted by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine:

“In 1993 Rauscher et al.1 made the surprising claim that, after listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos (K448) for 10 minutes, normal subjects showed significantly better spatial reasoning skills than after periods of listening to relaxation instructions designed to lower blood pressure or silence.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1281386/

How Does Spatial Reasoning Relate to Coding (Computer Programming) or the Software Development Role in General?

I have been exposed to a concept called Responsive Web Design, which typically utilizes HTML and CSS to make a website or app properly adjust to the size of various devices, such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones. This is done by using media queries in the CSS and the viewport meta tag in the HTML. These two things combined allow one to implement dynamic web pages that respond to the user’s device size.

Hint: A work around with respect to avoiding manual implementation of responsive design is through a design tool called Bootstrap. It takes care of the responsive design for you. Bootstrap is an open source toolkit for developing with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It can be added to any app by placing the following in the top of your HTML:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="//maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/3.3.1/css/bootstrap.min.css"/>

Read more about the utility of Bootstrap on their website:

However, regardless of Bootstrap’s workaround, spatial reasoning is an essential skill for the field of software development. According to the website of the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science, “Enhancing spatial reasoning increases retention of women (and men) in the science and technology classroom.”

According to Udacity, there are seven essential skills needed to become an iOS developer. From highest to lowest importance, those skills include the following: Swift, Spatial Reasoning, Design Guidelines, Networking, Core Data, Grand Central Dispatch, and Git and GitHub.

A simple google search for the cognitive effects of classical music on the mind and body is sure to return numerous results of medical, psychological and academic studies providing evidence based arguments for the multifold benefits of healing melodies. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, “Listening to classical music results in a positive correlation between spatial reasoning and mindfulness.”

http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-22733-001

In addition to spatial reasoning, software programming is an endeavor that requires attention to detail, mindfulness and concentration. It is no wonder that many technology companies offer outlets, such as ping pong tables, for programmers to decompress and mentally release from intensive coding activities. However, research shows that music therapy may be a far more effective means of promoting mental calmness.

A greater state of peace in the mind of a software engineer will likely lead to production of better code, and therefore the development of better software products. Play pingpong, but don’t forget the many healing and stress relieving benefits brought about by listening to the right kind of music.

Where to Find the Good Music?

In addition to many of the leading classical music composers from Mozart to Beethoven and Handel, one unique artist who produces therapeutic music is an Australian-born musician named Lisa Gerrard, who often collaborates with renowned German composer and record producer, Hans Zimmer.

Lisa Gerrard, who sings many of her pieces in glossolalia, began her musical career with the group Dead Can Dance. Her more recent work, for which she won a Golden Globe award, has been featured in the Gladiator’s musical score. She sang the vocals for the entire Gladiator album, and her music has been featured in several other preeminent films. Lisa Gerrard’s glossolalia can be viewed as an even higher form of art than classical music, and its positive impact on overall physical and mental wellness could be greater than that of Mozart. Her creative style often focuses on vocal improvisation, and she has been featured on TEDx to demonstrate that concept.

Perhaps one day we will see research and publications on the “Lisa Gerrard Effect.” Lisa Gerrard takes the art form of glossolalia and brings it to an appropriately dignified status of refined musical expression. Her music is spontaneous, unique, and it perhaps triggers positive neurological benefits equal to that of classical music, if not more so.

Remember, listening to and focusing on the rhythm of good music facilitates the writing of better code.