EDM Festivals: Great Therapy for ADHD That Actually Works
They say music can change the world, because music can change people. It’s effects on the brain, and on the lives of people, have been studied by scientists for decades and the results came out to be fascinating. First, people learned that classical music from the likes of Mozart made the listeners smarter. Then it was discovered that any kind of music would result in the same effects.
We don’t need to quote any big philosophers to note the importance of music in our lives. We all know that listening to music can bring people joy, trigger old memories in us, remind us of good and sometimes negative moments in our lives. Scientifically, when we hear a piece of music, all four areas of our brains react. Memories, emotions, thoughts and movement are all affected. Your brain goes through a mix of processes and finally, the signal reaches the amygdala, a gland that releases our pleasure hormone: Dopamine. It’s the chemical behind our rewards and pleasure center. So it’s no wonder we choose to listen to music so much, and it comes as no surprise that it triggers a passionate and inspirational release.
Considering the many genres of EDM, it’s no surprise that it can affect the brain in so many different ways. The repetitive patterns and ambient soundscapes are stimulating, and help in concentration without distracting.
Helping in the release of Dopamine makes EDM a special kind of music, one that helps and heals ADHD patients who usually lack that hormone which is in turn responsible for their deficit. Listening to EDM gives ADHD patients energy, at the same time allowing them to shut out everything else and concentrating fully on the music. Moving with the beats and positively connecting to others who enjoy the same music can be a great source of healing. Some ADHD patients give examples from their own lives: going to an EDM festival helped them stay concentrated without needing to take their ADHD medication. With the ADHD under control, patients are usually able to enjoy increased productivity (if they’re listening to the music on their own) or the additional benefits of connecting with like-minded individuals at festivals.
With no side effects, EDM music festivals are a great way to help people with ADHD. A general rule doctors in this field of treatment use is to have music that is upbeat, happy and that does not have a lot of words (which would require the subject’s concentration). And electronic dance music fits the bill perfectly.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD affects children and teens and sometimes continues into adulthood. It is described as the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children. Webmd describes ADHD as a disease that causes children to be “hyperactive and unable control their impulses. Or they may have trouble paying attention. These behaviors interfere with school and home life.”
It also described adults with ADHD to have trouble managing time, being organized, setting goals, and holding down a job. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addiction. It’s symptoms include anxiety, trouble controlling anger, easy frustration, low self esteem, trouble at work, un-organization, mood swings, depression and a few other similar symptoms.
It’s causes are unknown but some scientists have deduced that ADHD tends to be hereditary, running in one family, shows a chemical imbalance in the person’s brain with some areas that control attention being less active. Poor nutrition, infections, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse during pregnancy, some varied toxins, a disorder or injury are all factors which can affect the baby’s brain during development and result in ADHD.
Many of its symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication. Some prescription drugs are given to control hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and to increase attention span. Notably drugs like Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin), Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine). For people older than 6 years old, non-stimulant medications like Atomoxetine (Strattera) and Clonidine (Kapvay) are prescribed. Special education and behavioral therapies also teach the individuals (mainly children) and retrain them to replace negative behaviors with good one, and on how to manage their daily lives and improve their self-esteem.
Many people with ADHD live happy, successful lives. The treatment they go through helps greatly and it gets them stay aware of the symptoms and to regularly conduct checkups with their doctor. Sometimes medication and treatments will stop working, this is why they need to regularly assess their treatment plan and adjust accordingly. For many people, ADHD gets better with adulthood, with some patients stopping treatment.
Why music works for ADHD?
People with ADHD are thought to be deficient of neurotransmitters, important to make connections in the brain and body. These are chemicals which help the nerves transmit signals. When these chemicals are low the brain becomes “sluggish”. Music has been shown to increase these powerful and necessary neurotransmitters. As previously mentioned, music also fires up the entire brain. It taps into both the left and right brain hemispheres, engaging the logic, structure, and rhythm sections, in addition to creative, imaginary, and spatial sections. Music also works on a person’s emotional centers, with it’s calming effect which helps the other centers like our thinking center to improve. A lot of information is still missing and studies are still being done in order to better understand the effects of music on the ADHD brain. A 2011 study by Valerie Salimpoor and colleagues shows that music raises dopamine levels, which might account for the sense of pleasure and increased arousal we feel listening to music.
On another hand, another study from Florida International University found that people with ADHD benefit by listening to music while doing their homework or working in general. This again is probably due to the activation and arousal effects of music.
EDM And Wellbeing
Wikipedia describes EDM as:
“Electronic dance music (also known as EDM, dance music, club music, or simply dance) is a set of percussive electronic music genres produced primarily for environments centered in dance-based entertainment, such as nightclub settings. The music is largely created for use by disc jockeys and is produced with the intention of it being heard in the context of a continuous DJ set; wherein the DJ progresses from one record to the next via a synchronized segue or “mix”.”
EDM culture brought back the mantras of the 60’s: PLUR or Peace, Love, Unity and Respect; a philosophy that overrides anything else in the culture. Internally and externally, the culture embodies the spirit of self-expression, of loving oneself and others, respecting people and your inner being. It also unites people under the umbrella of music and loving others, and being open to positive experiences that bring varied cultures and people from all over the world into one big common ground.
All these key words and concepts paint a picture of positivity, one that is safe, uniting and harmless. A picture of hope and growth together as one people and given this common element: the music and the festival that celebrates it.
Generally speaking, a group of music researchers found that an intense musical experience is a psychological resource used as a means of self-therapy. For example, participants recalled their musical experience and remembered the positive feelings that accompanied their music journey, the memories of harmony with the crowd and themselves; and it all resulted in a form of self-confidence, of enhanced awareness, and improved their mood. In addition to that, the researchers found out that these memories resulted in an increase in motivation and inspiration. After attending a festival, people feel a sense of accomplishment and a positive burst of energy.
Another research conducted in the UK looked into the physical responses in the human body. Participants, tested for the stress hormone cortisol before, during, and after a musical experience, the results? a gradual decrease in the stress hormones. This was done on a classical music concert, should it be done in the electronic dance music scene, you’ll need to add the feelings of belonging and the connectivity to others which will have a major effect on the results. In another recent study, attending musical events has shown to decrease pain, improve the general mood, and found participants discussing moment of “connection and meaning”, people became more engaged in the music by dancing, tapping their feet and hands and waving together with others. A lot of these movements you can see during the live events of dance music DJs like Armin Van Buuren, Martin Garrix and DVBBS.
The release of dopamine, the pleasure chemical, is found to be greater at so-called ‘peak emotional moments’ in an EDM song. The level of reward at this moment of peak emotion is thought to correspond to the length and intensity of anticipation during the build up, another essential component of this type of music. All Djs in the scene use the build-up/drop structure serving as a guide to the crowd’s emotions. Rhythm is another major factor in EDM. Research shows a link between rhythm in the music and rhythm in the brain. The structure in the rhythm in a dance music song can help “structure” the brain of the listener. For example, going into a trance-like state with a partner enables the subject to completely forget worries of the day. Although it is impossible to generalize how this music will affect the individual with ADHD, it usually helps the person to catch up on the beat and helps the mind be as imaginative as possible.
Unlike all of the ups and downs of a symphonic piece, the repetitive nature of electronic dance music, will help your focus, as the repeating tones are nice to have going in the background and create a certain structure which is then paralleled in the listener’s mind. By offering a consistent, mellow-toned, and most of the times a soundscape without lyrics, electronic music can actually improve performance in immersive tasks, while also providing the individual with a boost during repetitive tasks, with an increased dose of happiness and efficiency.
Regardless of the person’s brain type, music is a helpful tool that everyone benefits from. But the patterning and wave frequency of electronic music in particular can be helpful to ADHD brain/body optimization, just like symphonies and classical music.
Whether it’s listening or playing, a naturally fun way to experience music is by sharing it with others. This adds a social and interactive component to it as well. When we contribute together we feel unity and mutual enjoyment and this is where EDM festivals come in.
Festivals: EDM Music & More
Dance music festivals are a cocktail of people, a variety of cultures and backgrounds all uniting under one theme, one cause and for the love of one thing: Electronic Dance Music. During festivals, people will meet, friends will unite and new friendships will be created. Attendees will bond together, and share the experience all as one. Which is of course one of the highlights of the whole experience, a big celebration of life and “PLUR”.
Festivals are an escape of the normal day-to-day concerns and routine into a musical therapy of dance and fun. It’s a place where nothing else matters, where an electric energy surrounds you. EDM festivals bring you no option but to dance and dance merging the days and nights. They’re a place where time does not exist, where labels do not exist, and where the only goal is to be in joy. Festivals, by definition, reflect festivity and a shared sense of joyfulness.
Music festivals are formats, which promote engagement offering full immersion in a unique environment. Additional research shows that festival attendance can create a sense of community, bringing groups together and create a sense of common purpose and connection (Gibson & Connell, 2003). Australian researchers Packer and Ballantyne (2010) investigated the social wellbeing and psychological benefits of music festival attendance in a sequential, mixed-methods exploratory study. They found out that people experience a form of connection and a sense of engagement that is unique and is not seen at other types of concerts. Conversations which were transcribed recounted that attendance at a festival is an active process that allows significant engagement with the music, because there’s a connection between the performer and the audience in a bi-directional manner, resulting in a personalized, distinctive experience (Packer & Ballantyne, 2010). The music festival is unique in blending various factors together: the social experience, proximity to the artists, familiarity in the environment and artists…etc.
All of the above beneficial aspects of festivals are added to the general benefit of the electronic dance music styles and result in a very positive overall experience to any human being. Imagine what it can do to a person with ADHD. The result from various studies throughout the past few years all conclude that students perform better, concentrate better and calm down especially after attending a full weekend of festivities.
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