People all over the world turn to music for all types of situations, and new studies show that music can also be used as a mental health tool. According to a study in Australia, music can be used to help a person focus, express personality, socially connect with others, foster creativity, relax someone and ignite motivation. Lisa Winn, an Assistant Clinical Director at the University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center, said music covers a whole range of feelings that can be positively used in many mental health scenarios.
“If a person is sad, they might listen to sad songs and their emotions might amplify,” Winn said. “That song igniting sadness is not necessarily bad wellness, especially if the music is causing someone to connect with and understand their feelings.”
Music is very personal and the way it is used with people navigating their mental health is individualized and based on preference. According to neuroscience and clinical studies from the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, music can help treat depression, autism, schizophrenia, and dementia, as well as problems of agitation, anxiety, sleeplessness and substance misuse. Research suggests that music from a similar background of one’s culture is the most effective in helping understanding moods and evaluating personal mental health. Classical music is proven to calm individuals and help slow heart rate.
In addition to listening to music, playing an instrument or singing can also help a person find peace and relief during times of high stress or anxiety.
“While listening to music is passive, actually playing an instrument is an active task for your brain. People who play an instrument feel connected to something that is producing art, and that is often a very gratifying and rewarding feeling,” Winn said. “I ask my patients to explain why they enjoy playing their favorite song, and I find that people feel a great sense of purpose after connecting their instrument to meaning.”
Music is a beautiful tool that can allow a person to feel purposeful and inspired. Music and mental health are positively intertwined and can be utilized to stimulate positive emotions for anyone experiencing a number of symptoms.
For more on music, enjoy this Ted Talk by Robert Gupta, an advocate for neurobiology, music and mental health.