The impact of music on mental health

What is music? How can we define that soulful expression of emotion carried on waves of sound?

To a degree, music is a bit like literature.¹ It can move us. A great song, like a great novel, can profoundly affect the listener in extraordinary ways and lingers long after the music stops. ¹ When done well, music can leave its mark on our hearts, mind, memory and soul. The language of music is universal and touches us deeply in ways mere words cannot. One of the greatest writers of our time describes music this way: 

“How shall I say it? Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have … And music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time. I become confounded with his soul, and with him I pass from one condition to another.” —"The Kreutzer Sonata" ¹ - Leo Tolstoy, Russian Novelist¹

So the question becomes, in what ways does music have an impact on us? 

According to NAMI, (National Association Mental Illness), it cites research indicating the benefits of music therapy on various mental health conditions such as depression or schizophrenia. Music is used as a medium to process emotions, trauma and grief. It can also act as a calming agent for anxiety or dysregulation. ² Music therapy consists of: 

Lyric Analysis

While talk therapy allows a person to speak about topics that may be difficult to discuss, lyric analysis introduces a novel and less-threatening approach to process emotions, thoughts and experiences.²

Improvisation Music Playing

Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization and exploration of various therapeutic themes (i.e. conflict, communication, grief, etc.).²

Active Music Listening

Music can be utilized to regulate mood. Because of its rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us and reduces impulsivity. We often utilize music to match or alter our mood.²

Songwriting

Songwriting provides opportunities for expression in a positive and rewarding way. Anyone can create lyrics that reflect their own thoughts and experiences, and select instruments and sounds that best reflect the emotion behind the lyrics.²

These actions can not only help individuals express and process their emotions, it can instill calm and creativity restoring confidence in an individual’s own abilities. 

Listening to music can be entertaining,³ and according to an article entitled, How Listening to Music Can Have Psychological Benefits by Verywell Mind³, the author suggests based on research that it might even make you healthier. Music can be a source of serenity, but there are other psychological benefits as well. Music can strengthen the body, rest the mind and even help people better manage pain. The psychological effects of music can be powerful and can improve:³

  • Cognitive function
  • Reduce stress 
  • Help you lose weight 
  • Improve memory, help students study and increase ease with learning new language skills
  • Help manage pain 
  • Sleep aid 
  • Can improve motivation / increased endurance and performance 
  • Can improve mood
  • May improve symptoms of depression ³

How does music affect you? Can you think of a time it helped see you through a difficult time or, brought back amazing and joyful memories? 

What are you listening to right now?

Come as you are, leave feeling better

#everydaywellness

Sources:

¹Bustle.com, 11 of the best literary descriptions of music, Leah Butterfield, May 8, 2014, Leo Tolstoy 11 of the Best Literary Descriptions of Music (bustle.com) , last accessed November 11, 2021, direct quote: “How shall I say it? Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have … And music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time. I become confounded with his soul, and with him I pass from one condition to another.” —"The Kreutzer Sonata" ¹ - Leo Tolstoy, Russian Novelist

²NAMI.org, The impact of music therapy on Mental health, Molly Warren, December 19, 2016, https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health , last accessed November 11, 2021, direct quotes:

  • Music is used as a medium to process emotions, trauma and grief. It can also act as a calming agent for anxiety or dysregulation. ²
  • Lyric Analysis While talk therapy allows a person to speak about topics that may be difficult to discuss, lyric analysis introduces a novel and less-threatening approach to process emotions, thoughts and experiences.²
  • Improvisation Music Playing Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization and exploration of various therapeutic themes (i.e. conflict, communication, grief, etc.). ²
  • Active Music Listening Music can be utilized to regulate mood. Because of its rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us and reduces impulsivity. We often utilize music to match or alter our mood.²
  • Songwriting Songwriting provides opportunities for expression in a positive and rewarding way. Anyone can create lyrics that reflect their own thoughts and experiences, and select instruments and sounds that best reflect the emotion behind the lyrics.²

³ Verywellmind.com, How listening to music can have psychological benefits, Kendra Cherry, Updated December 10, 2019, medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, M.D., https://www.verywellmind.com/surprising-psychological-benefits-of-music4126866 , last accessed November 11, 2021, direct data:

Can improve:

  • Cognitive function
  • Reduce stress
  • Help you lose weight
  • Improve memory, help students study and increase ease with learning new language skills
  • Help manage pain
  • Sleep aid
  • Can improve motivation / increased endurance and performance
  • Can improve mood
  • May improve symptoms of depression ³

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