And the Beat Goes On: How Music Can Help Calm Your Anxiety

Listening to and playing music can soothe not only the soul, but also the mind. | Image Source: Flickr user Weldon Kennedy

Let’s face it: it is impossible to imagine a world where music didn’t exist. From joy rides with friends in your car listening to a sing-along jam, to motivation for rigorous exercise, to soothing comfort when you’re struggling with tough emotions–music is there to help us feel like we are not alone. Aside from expressing those difficult emotions we can’t seem to articulate sometimes and connecting people in deep and soulful ways, it can actually make you a healthier person; for those who struggle with mental health illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and especially anxiety, music can be a source of serenity as you navigate the healing process.[1. http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/]

Magical Melodies

Not only does music soothe the soul, but it can actually have dramatic effects on the recovery process for those who have undergone surgery, are in in treatment or therapy for a severe illness or disorder–even Alzheimer’s–and those who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD.

Studies have shown time and time again that certain types of music can be especially effective on the reduction of anxiety, mostly including those genres with slower tempos, repetitive instrumentation, and lower pitches.[2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/02/music-and-health-rock-on_n_6573132.html] Take classical music for example: the ebb and flow of the music, without extremes in volume, along with the lack of lyrics can actually help your brain’s dopamine production, balancing out the stress and anxiety hormone cortisol. This allows your system to restore and regulate its production of these battling hormones, helping you become more balanced.

Perhaps the most revealing study on the effect that music has on the human mind, body, and spirit is a study where premature babies were exposed to lulling music as they fought to become strong and healthy.[3. http://pom.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/22/0305735613499781.abstract] Not only did their heart rates and responses to pain decrease, but their oxygen saturation–the amount of oxygen running through their blood–increased as well.

Hitting High Notes: My Story

For years, I was told I was too sensitive. Too emotional. Too anxious. Both of my parents and my brother have struggled with addictions and behavioral, mood, and personality disorders. For most of my young adult life, I didn’t recognize that in trying to single-handedly take responsibility to help them heal and grow, I was putting myself in a position to be grasped by the same illnesses to which I was already prone.

As I became increasingly stressed and anxious over the people in my life whom I loved dearly and who needed treatment, I neglected my own mental health. It took me losing a job, a major career change, and a relationship upheaval to finally come to terms with the fact that I suffered from mild depression and extreme anxiety–even over things that wouldn’t normally warrant those reactions or conditions.

After my brother relapsed for the second time, I hit an emotional low. I just wasn’t able to support him (or my father, who has battled depression, paranoia, and acute stress, among other afflictions) if I couldn’t support myself. In my darkest time emotionally, I turned to my deepest, most passionate loves to find strength and courage to both heal myself and also be available to those who might need inspiration and motivation: singing and music.

Before that point, I’d already begun navigating back to music in buying a ukulele and writing songs from time to time. It almost seemed like the universe pushed me toward my musical healing journey even further, when a family member invited me to sing in his band just days after breaking down and crying on my kitchen floor. Since then, I’ve remembered, recognized, and graciously accepted how the power of music can have truly healing effects on the body and mind, and am continuing to benefit from and pursue it.

Listen to the Beat

It is important to remember that your journey is different than mine, and from anyone else’s–and that best way to become the best version of yourself is to understand that something like the beauty of a series of notes can be extremely effective when in conjunction with treatment, therapy, and other resources.

Individualized treatment programs are becoming more diverse and implement many more holistic and health-conscious therapies than ever before. Bridges’ dedication to helping those that deal with mental health disorders in a touching, personal way means that there are a wide variety of treatment options to fit your needs–including music therapy, in the form of their drumming group. Oftentimes, many who struggle to verbally articulate their emotions feel that playing an instrument is an extremely effective non-verbal expression of how they are feeling or what they are thinking. Finding comfort in listening to something you create will give you confidence, strength, and motivation to continue your journey on creating a future full of beauty–and music.

Music and its power has never been denied, but it is hard to fathom how life-changing it can be until you allow it to. Bridges’ commitment to quality, personalized treatment gives you the opportunity to thrive and grow with individual treatment plans. If you or someone you know struggles with a mental health condition and needs help, reach out to us today.