Sometimes life feels hard.
Between personal challenges, worries, the headlines and life’s demands, it can feel heavy and stressful. The stress-response impacts our brain’s ability to make good decisions, problem-solve and accurately perceive what’s happening and how to respond instead of react. We can feel like life’s victim when we’re living in reaction, being pulled forth from situation to situation.
When life throws us a curve-ball and we find ourselves struggling, having planned strategies in place to support ourselves is empowering. Instead of getting dragged, unwittingly, down the rabbit-hole, using strategies to calm our nervous system allows us to re-set and come back to our centre.
Over the years, I’ve assembled a diverse tool-box of practices that have served well in moving me from feeling like life’s victim to empowerment. It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to what we might need to support us, so having diverse self-help strategies in place is wise.
I’ve assembled a wide-range of practices and I’m constantly adding new ways as science is revealing the wisdom and benefit behind them. Beyond just knowing something just feels good, I like understanding why, or the science of why they’re helpful.
While mindfulness practices are key in my self-help toolbox, I’ve also found music to be an ever-available source of support. Whether we’re singing or listening to music, our brains and bodies are wired to respond. Music can transport us from sadness to feeling more hopeful and uplifted, and it has the ability to inspire, soothe and invigorate us, supporting our mental well-being.
Listening to music causes release of the feel-good hormone dopamine, it increases our cognitive function and reduces feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Listening to tunes activates the emotional centres of our brains, as well as the motor cortex, responsible for movement.
Choosing our music wisely is key. Intentionally using music geared to the felt-state we want to embody is helpful. Listening to fast-paced music when we need an energy boost, relaxing melodies when we need to calm, or inspiring music when we want to feel uplifted.
Conversely, listening to sad or anger-filled music increases the release of stress hormones and stimulates negative emotions, remembering our bodies don’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined.
Experts report physical and psychological stress are reduced when listening to uplifting or soothing music as levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are lowered while beneficial serotonin and dopamine levels are enhanced. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness, it supports communication between our body’s cells, enhances our ability to focus, plan and think more clearly.
The science of music therapy is being used to help mothers experiencing postpartum depression as they’re encouraged to sing to their babies, and many of us have watched videos of music’s ability to reach into the brains of dementia patients, seeming to unlock them, returning them to life.
I always have music at the ready. When I feel myself getting pulled down by life, I have a whole arsenal of music that helps pull me back up, hit the reset button, be better able to think and be who I choose to be in this world.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.