The concept of self-help is a common topic in our blogs. Making time to relax, exercise and maintain a good diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit are central to self-help strategies. Our topic this week – listening to music – is one of the more subtle techniques for self-help and overall wellness.
Studies indicate that music can help manage stress and can be an important tool for recovery from depression and anxiety. And on a basic level, we know that music can be calming – as well as inspiring.
Nature and Music
The place to draw the line between music and the sounds of nature is debatable. Beautiful music is soothing, but so too are the sounds of nature. Smartphones and computers conveniently offer recordings of the shoreline waves, seagulls, rain, gentle breezes and so forth, such as Nature Sound. Of course, the sounds of birds in the spring are “music to our ears,” so for purposes of this article we’ll draw no line between sounds of nature and music.
Science and Music
Whether the sound of music brings a smile or makes people want to dance, research indicates during peak moments of music, the brain releases dopamine, a hormone linked to feelings of reward. So listening to songs, or extended classical pieces, can provide positive feelings as our bodies experience a physiological reaction to the music we love. Music can serve as a convenient, natural boost for positive feelings, so key to good mental health. Consider having some fun and making a handy playlist of favorites.
Making Music Together
Studies showing the scientific benefits of music are abundant, but another way that music syncs with self-help is in ensembles. Author Daniel Pink in his most recent book titled “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” recommends joining a choir. While he writes about timing and making music, he also points to research that choral singing calms heart rates and boosts endorphin levels. Actually, participation in any type of groups – faith groups, exercise groups, support groups related to specific conditions and so forth – can provide benefit for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
Self-help and Professional Help
Numerous other self-help strategies are highlighted in our Mental Health First Aid courses we offer to the community. And please be mindful to consider professional help for an identified mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association describes a mental disorder or mental illness as a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior, as well as disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out other daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships.
So with this definition in mind, please consider professional help if needed as well. Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be an important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.