Ep. 127 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. In today’s topic, I get to combine two passions of mine. The holistic power of music and holistic health and wellness. Joining me today from Barcelona, Spain, through the wonders of technology is Patricia Caicedo. Patricia is a medical doctor and has a Ph.D. in Musicology. She’s a multifaceted artist, scholar and soprano. She’s a fellow podcaster. She has performed in venues worldwide and has recorded 11 CDs. She’s published 10 books. Her most recent book was published just a few months ago. It’s titled We Are What We Listen To: The Impact of Music on Individual and Social Health. Welcome to enhance life with music, Patricia.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:00:57] Thank you very much. Mindy, I’m very happy to be here.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:01] Well, in your book, you refer to Wellness as an optimum state, a subjective state that reflects the level of satisfaction we have in different aspects of life. You referenced the National Wellness Institute’s Bill Heller, who categorizes Wellness into six main dimensions physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and occupational and wellness is about achieving balance in these six dimensions when it comes to this balance. You use the word homeostasis in your book, which I love that word. Can you elaborate on this term homeostasis, what it means in medicine and also what you would consider personal homeostasis?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:01:49] Yes, when we are talking about homeostasis in medicine, we are referring to equilibrium to balance up to a perfect state where all the organs and systems are balance function in, it’s better possible way. So this is in the way that I am referring to in in the book. This is an aspirational, aspirational state where

Mindy Peterson: [00:02:17] We could arrive. Well, I love that word because I personally really have a craving for balance in my life, and I don’t know if all of us have that or not, but I really feel it when I’m out of balance in any way. And it was fun to see sort of the six categories spelled out like that in medicine. I believe that homeostasis is used with sort of biological implications in the medical realm. How is the word homeostasis used and what does it mean?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:02:49] So most of the times when medical doctors refer to that are referring to the functions to physiology, to all the functions of the body. But I would like to expand that concept to a one that includes the bio psychosocial aspects of the human being. So not only contemplating the human being as a machine, a biological machine, but also as we are social beings and we are also psychological beings. So the homeostasis at the end of the day is the right balance of all these aspects.

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:30] Love that, and I love your interdisciplinary approach to wellness and to to health in this way. Just one more thing back to the medical piece of things. Would you say that illness occurs when there’s a lack of homeostasis?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:03:45] Yes. Actually, this is a good definition of illness because when there is no equilibrium, when we are not balanced, when there is something that is out of, if I could say, out of place or this place is when the symptoms appear, that could be psychological symptoms of relational symptoms or in the way we relate to others or also physical symptoms that are calling us. And the symptoms actually are the ways in which our body reach to us, calling the attention to tell us that something is out of balance, that we have to address that. Mm-hmm.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:28] So in my very simplistic way of distilling this down from a medical perspective, to me, that means a lack of homeostasis results in inflammation, which then results in an illness. Would that be fair to say?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:04:45] Yes. When this balance, because for people to understand these homeostasis, I don’t know if I’m saving right because of my language. Is this my second language? But when we are out of balance is when the scene. My peers and not only in inflammation, but any symptom in the different illnesses, because the illness appears when the physiological balance is affected,

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:16] So that disruption

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:05:17] Disruption, exactly that’s the word.

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:20] There are so many wonderful facets of music and health that you discuss in the book. Some of them we have covered on the show. So I’m going to sort of steer our conversation more toward the aspects in your book that really caught my attention that we have not yet addressed on the show. And we’re going to be talking about the role that music plays in maintaining or bringing back homeostasis in each of these dimensions of wellness. If we look first at that physical dimension, let’s talk about some of the ways that music can play a role in bringing about homeostasis physically. You mentioned in the book that music can have a positive impact on immunity. Can you talk to us and elaborate a bit on that?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:06:09] Yes, there are many, many positive effects of music in the body. The vibration itself is a way in which our body is in a way, if we could say tune because there are recent discoveries that in some scientific with nano microscopic, they have seen the cells, the smaller part of our body. The cell vibrates and produces a sound, and this sound is different in illness and in health. So when the smallest particle of the body that is the cell vibrates and produces a sound, also, the organs produce sounds, the whole body vibrates. So when we listen to music, music has the effect of, for example, and in brain level, it enhances the production of certain neurotransmitters that contribute to us feeling happier or better. Also doing, as you say, to enhance our immunity because the body functions better. There are many neurotransmitters that I mentioned in the book that have different effects that are liberated when we are listening to music or on when we are excited. For example, when we receive the rhythmic stimulus of music that we dance and we exchange this music with other people. Also when we dancing group or we sing in a group, in a choral singing, for example, there are 13 and neurotransmitters like the oxytocin that is liberated that not only is good for our community, but also for affiliating us to all others are making us feel closer to other people, for example. So there are many levels in which music impacts positively the brain in different areas of the brain.

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:23] Yeah, it really is hard sometimes to separate these different dimensions out from one another. Because, as you mentioned, the emotional aspect of music is so closely tied to some of these physical attributes, and the ability of music to enhance our emotional well-being does have a direct influence on our physical immunity. That’s so fascinating what you’re saying, too, about the cells and the organs vibrating. It’s almost like our cells and organs are creating their own symphony with their their own vibrations. Before we leave that physical realm, I just want to point out that your book talks about how the use of music can alleviate pain and reduce the need for painkillers. It can increase relaxation, and those physiological effects can be measured with changes in blood pressure breathing digestion. One final thing that I just wanted to bring up that was really fascinating was on this topic. You mentioned that neuroimaging scans such as pet and MRI show evidence that listening to music that we like activates the same regions of the brain as those activated when we experience euphoria, when we experience erotic stimuli or when we eat chocolate. Yes, many people refer to the sensation of goosebumps caused by music as a musical orgasm. Tell us more about that.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:09:52] Yes, I was interested in learning why the goosebumps were, as you mentioned, I. Remember when I start singing, I was a small girl and people many times said, Oh, when you think I my my, my, I has good parts and I didn’t know what is happening, so is there are many studies that demonstrate that the same neural ways pathways in the brain that produce pleasure, as you mentioned for erotic stimulus or, for example, when we do something that we like very much or something, that the pleasure and the emotion and music are connected, so some of the same pathways are shared. So this is also interesting to know because it means that we could consciously use the music stimulus to achieve these mental states, to feel pleasure, to feel emotion, to be happy, to have pleasant feelings.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:59] Yeah, well, that is so fascinating. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the emotional facet because it is so tied, it seems to the physical and you’ve already touched on a couple of times. One thing that I thought was really fascinating that you point out in the book is that emotional pain is something that we all experience. It can’t really be measured and it’s even more complex than physical pain. And I hadn’t really thought about it like that, but it’s so true. I mean, we all have different physical pain tolerances and respond differently to different negative stimulus that causes pain. And in the same way, we all have different emotional pain tolerances. And it is so subjective, we can’t really evaluate it, measure it, compare it. But we all experience it at some point, and music is really effective in addressing emotional pain. Talk to us a little bit about music’s use in that realm.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:11:58] Pain is a very complex concept because it’s a phenomenon that is a multi-dimensional and also is something very rooted to the culture and the processes of learning. We have experience because we also learn to express our pain culturally. One aspect that in the whole book I wanted to maintain, I don’t know if you noticed, but I wanted to always. Yes, even when I’m talking about the physiological biological aspects of how music affects us, always having in mind that we are cultural beings, that we live in a context, the culture in which we leave the historical moment also determines how we experience music and all other stimulus and how we experience and how we express pain. One interesting thing is that music through history have been used to elaborate mourning to accompany people when they lose somebody they love, when they experience the death of loved ones and individual level, and also in a social level. Music appeals in those moments as a tool to heal ourselves, to express the mourning. It’s like a companion music and also our ways of expressing our most, deepest feelings.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:33] Yeah. So that outlet for expression and the sense that I’m not alone in this can make even sad music feel good, which we’ve we’ve had an episode on that phenomenon, too. Well, you point out in the book this I found this fascinating, too, that although music is able to produce a wide range of emotions, it’s primarily the positive emotional states that are prompted and triggered and produced by music. So not wrath and irritation and boredom, not those feelings, but more the feelings of amazement, tenderness, nostalgia, peace, power, joy. And like I said, even that tension and sadness is more of a nostalgic, longing type of a feeling that feels positive, even though we tend to think of sadness and tension as negative emotions. So that was really, really fascinating to me.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:14:32] Yes, music is associated mainly with positive feelings, even as you mentioned when we are listening to sad music or in a sad moment of our life. Music contributes for the catharsis, too, for expressing and getting out the things that are making us sad, so have a positive impact. And also music. When we practice music, we achieve. Mental states, very similar to what the researcher of happiness Chichen Itza described as flow. There are moments in which you are really connected with what we are doing and we lose the sensation of of time passing. We are completely concentrated. We are challenged by an activity, but at the same time, we know that we can achieve it and we can do it well. So this gives us a sensation of happiness and also meaning of life. There are many studies that show that, for example, musicians or people who in old age practice music in groups, they experience more happiness and because they feel that their life has a meaning. And this meaning also is the result of feeling that they are part of a community and they are practicing music with others, not because they want to be the best musicians in the world, but because they want to share, communicate, be part of a group and not feeling isolated. So music is like a glue social glue.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:14] I like that. Well, all of those things that you described, I mean, music bringing meaning even to sadness, music bringing a state of flow, music, reducing stress and anxiety and depression. All of those things and increasing happiness. You quote some studies that show that listening to music really does increase happiness. So all of those things make perfect sense to me that if you’re experiencing that, it would positively impact your physical health as well. Let’s talk a little bit about the social aspect of music, the role that music plays and our social dimension, and how that contributes to wellness.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:16:53] That’s interesting because before being social meaning being part of a group of community, we are an individual. And music is an identity marker, very strong. It plays an important role, a very important role in the confirmation of our identity. I think the listeners can relate to to this when they think that there are songs that define a generation or songs that they feel they identify with because there were the songs or the music of their youth or the music of the teen university years or infancy. So music is a is an identity market and it’s also a social marker. It affiliates us to a set of values, to a social group, to a country, to a historical moment. So it is like a mirror in which we can project ourselves and our values. That’s why the title of the book says We are. What we listen to is in the sense that when we learn what music somebody listened to, we can at least have some clue of where these people are coming from or the social context, et cetera, et cetera, the age. So music is very attached to our identity. But when these identity encounters, another identity means in the social encounter, in the social interaction. Music becomes this, as I mentioned before, this glue that it creates a bridge to arrive to the other to share with the others when we are making music together. As I mentioned before, there is oxytocin that is liberated this hormone that before we thought that was only liberated when the mom was feeding her baby. That creates this bond of mother and son. So this same neurotransmitter is liberated when people are singing together, for example, or participating in a music ritual together because we don’t think that the parties where we go at rituals because we assign that word ritual, probably to something old or antique. But no, we are surrounded by rituals every day and participating in a party together when we are singing together or dancing. This is a social ritual that is creating these bonds between people.

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:35] Yeah, well, in rituals bring comfort to and as you mentioned, it brings this sense of belonging, which is such an antidote to loneliness. Loneliness, loneliness is such a horrible experience in such a horrible feeling. And music brings us together. It’s a shared language that we have in common, even if we don’t have much else in common with people, it give. Just that sense of belonging, and for sure, in the last couple of years, with all of the quarantines and isolation that have been a part of this pandemic, a lot of people have experienced loneliness and that for sure impacts your physical health and well-being. And so it’s wonderful to have something like music that is non-pharmacological. It’s not intrusive. It’s available to pretty much all of us and can help mitigate some of those effects of loneliness. You point out in the book that humans first social interactions are musical if we consider the lullaby. And you touched on that how those lullabies can affect hormones and chemicals. The release of things like oxytocin, vasopressin, cortisol that influence attachment, trust and affection between the mother and the child that I kind of associate with physical contact and maybe breastfeeding. But you point out in the book that singing lullabies and singing together in groups really affects those chemicals and hormones as well.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:21:03] Yes. So music has an impact physically, as we are mentioning now for the changes that it creates in the brain and in the body. But it has an effect psychological effect, very powerful not only when we listen to music, but when we make music. Making music is a very powerful brain exercise that demands the coordination of many areas of the brain simultaneously, so it’s like a very strong exercise for the brain. For example, if I’m singing and playing the guitar at the same time, I coordinated many cognitive functions that are very complex, like that’s why music is in cognitive terms is multi-model because at the same time, many processes, complex processes are happening. So this is like a very demanding exercise for for the brain that keeps the brain. I could say young and the benefits of music could be received at any age.

Mindy Peterson: [00:22:15] Yeah. And that was such a perfect bridge to talking about the intellectual effects of music on our health and well-being. And you just mentioned several amazing ones. I mean, just the cognitive stimulation and protective factor on the aging of our brains is so huge. And I’ll for sure link to some episodes. We’ve had several episodes that address the cognitive benefits that we get through making music and just the protection on aging and dementia. You mentioned in the book so many of those wonderful benefits on the brain and cognitive function of music, including that inter hemispheric communication between the hemispheres of the brain that are happening because making music is such a complex function and activity that involves so many different parts of the brain. The other dimensions that we haven’t talked about so far are spiritual and occupational. Is there anything that you want to mention about either of those? Before we wrap up the time that we have together here?

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:23:19] So I think that in general, music in all our dimensions help us to achieve that homeostasis that you were mentioning at the beginning. And one aspect of this book that is also through the whole book is the historical aspect. So because I wanted to give people the perspective of how this relationship between music and health has been always present since the beginning of the human being. So these in the book, the reader will learn how this evolution of this relationship between music and medicine since the Paleolithic man, Mesopotamia, the medieval ages, renaissance, etc. Until now, also seeing this presence also the importance of movement meaning dance because music and dance in many cultures and in from that brain perspective also are not separated are the same thing

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:23] Which makes more sense than separating them. Tell us about the exercises that you have at the end of your book. I love those. There are few of them the soundtrack of your life, your essence in music, where you create songs that express your essence and soundscapes. Tell us just briefly about those exercises.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:24:43] Yes, when I was making the music, the book it was, it was challenging for me because I wanted to, first of all, write in an accessible way that everybody could read, but also with scientific rigour. So it was this achieving this balance? Was challenging and also making it short, not too long, so people could digest these concepts. Yeah, well,

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:07] She did a great job of accomplishing that goal because I have no medical background and it was very easy for me to read. And there are so many footnotes with references for further reading that there were many that I highlighted like, Oh man, I need to check out these references because that would be a great episode in and of itself. So you did a great job of achieving that balance between making it accessible to the layperson and yet also having that scientific rigor. But you interrupted there.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:25:37] No, no. Thank you. It makes me happy to hear that. And also but at the end, when I just finished that, I said, OK, this is the last chapter. There are ten chapters. And I was about to end the book and I said, No, no, but I should make something practical so people can engage more and also can pass from theory to practice. Because I have been the whole book telling them how important it is to incorporate these into your life. But how so? I decided to create these exercises that I think that would be fun to do for people like, first of all, to see it and reflect on those identity aspects that I mentioned. What is the the most important songs from my my childhood or the music of my adolescence, or the song that mark different stages of my life? But although this is an exercise that appears to be more hedonistic or something with no purpose, it has a practical purpose. Because we mentioned in the book that many times when people have dementia or Alzheimer’s, the only music or the only tool that arrives to their oldest memories is one of the only tools is the music from that they know, and there was meaningful to them. So in writing these soundtracks or playlists with the music we like, we are also preparing for old age for having these resources when we need them.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:14] Boy, that is a great point. That is so powerful because yeah, there there are some wonderful nonprofits out there that take advantage of this fact that our musical memory is the last to fade away and we can have people with dementia and Alzheimer’s who are virtually unresponsive yet literally come alive when they hear music that they enjoyed from their youth. And unfortunately, isn’t a cure and isn’t. It doesn’t last forever, but it can really engage their minds and have them communicative and talking with people for a couple of hours. And yet I’m hearing that in a lot of these situations, their family members or loved ones don’t know what music was important to them in their youth. So this exercise, I love that it really does have that dual purpose.

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:28:02] Exactly. I was thinking that, OK, it’s at least we we had the work for our music therapies or family member because these music is written down. We know exactly also is a beautiful exercise, and it will bring us to different times and to remember people we love and experiences we have had. But there is also an exercise that is related with one of the chapters that is talking about our musical autobiography. How can we use music to think about who we are now and to thinking who we what we would like to be if I don’t know if I’m expressing that right because of the language barrier, but and through music to write some lyrics. We don’t have to be expert or professional musicians to do that, but we can write a lyric and perhaps put the music to it too. It’s only for us. We don’t have to go and sing outside to the audience, but as a personal thing, writing a song to the person I am, to the person that I would like to be, that person I aspire to be with the values that I aspire to have. So in writing this song or these lyrics for that, I’m being aware of where I am, where I would like to be, and also will reflect about how could I get there? So it’s a very powerful psychological exercise. And music helped us to put out all these things that sometimes we don’t even pay attention to them or we don’t find the time to think in these important things for our role.

Mindy Peterson: [00:29:51] Yeah, love that. Well, for listeners who want to consciously incorporate music into their everyday. Live to increase health and wellness and just that balanced life, I highly recommend this book and for sure, the three exercises at the end, those those three projects I could see being really powerful and fun to do as well, and something that would be fun to share with whoever you want to share them with. Well, one quote that I want to sort of close with a quote from your book is this you say, knowing the impact that our corporal experiences and habits have on our health grants us an incredible power, but also a great responsibility. We can shape our brain with our actions, slow down the aging process and live until an old age while maintaining good health. And just love that quote that puts the power in our hands and puts us in the driver’s seat. We do have control over our health to some extent. We’re not totally at the mercy of our genetics, but there are things that we can do to influence that. So love that. I highly recommend your book. Well, what you see, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical, ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or story that you can share with us today? In closing

Dr. Patricia Caicedo: [00:31:15] God stories? I have many, many, many, many, but we would need a lot of episodes of this podcast because music has been instrumental in my life since I have. Memory is my best companion, my tool for healing myself. So I feel blessed to have music in my life. But I would like to share with the audience one of the songs of my newest CD that is said very special because I wrote it. I wrote the songs for the first time because during all my life I had been a performer and an interpreter, and I think the compositions of other composers, but never my own compositions. And during the pandemic, I start writing songs, setting to music the poems written by poets I like. So this is the last CD, and this song is called La Mala Word the bad luck, but don’t be confused by the title. It’s a beautiful poem written by a woman poet from Argentina called Every Monkeys and is a song for voice and piano.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai