Music can change our moods and our feelings. Whether we want to change our feelings, or wallow in them, we have songs that make us sad or get us pumped up. Many of us even have a go-to playlist for each of our moods.
Music therapy is an established intervention for a wide range of people and symptoms.
In nursing homes, residents gather to listen or to sing along to songs they learned in their youth. This improves their moods, increases their social interaction, increases their appetite, and is associated with leading a longer life.
In juvenile detention centers, music therapy often focuses on participation. Trapped feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and inadequacy can be processed as students master instruments. Playing together as a group creates a shared sense of joy and creation, giving students a sense of accomplishment that is sometimes different than anything they have experienced before.
Here are three ways you can utilize music therapy individually or with friends to work through your own experiences.
Listening to music is the most common form of music therapy. In fact, it is so common that it seems odd to call it “therapy.” We call it “listening to some music.”
How do you make it work?
- Listen to music that matches your mood. Sometimes a feeling comes on so strong that it is obviously signaling something deeper than just a passing whim or mood. When this happens, the best solution is to “lean in.” Find songs that speak to your feelings. Break out of preconceived notions about which types of music or artists you usually listen to and just respond to how the music makes you feel. Your favorite streaming service may even have playlists with that feeling in the title, giving you an easy way to search.
- Listen to music that changes your mood. You don’t have time for this mood, right now. When you need to snap out of it, or find a burst of energy, choose music that changes your mood. Almost always, we want something upbeat and happy, or even silly. What are those songs that get you pumped up? A favorite pop tune? A Broadway melody? Play it – and turn it up!
Another therapeutic use of music is writing lyrics that speak to your own situation.
Country music is often ridiculed for repeating similar plotlines, but this is because individual lives often have the same problems. Someone we love doesn’t love us back, the car broke down, our boss does not seem to care about us, or alcohol doesn’t give us permanent solutions to our problems. Sound familiar?
Take one of these songs with a familiar melody, and write your own lyrics to it. Talk about your situation right now. You might be surprised to find that your subconscious will identify deeper problems and patterns. In trying to make it rhyme, you will find new words for your struggle.
Once you have written them down, they become more tangible and easier to manage.
No matter your skill level, you can probably write a simple song on an instrument you have available. Even if that instrument is red Solo cups.
But even if you aren’t Anna Kendrick, you can pick out a melody on a keyboard, a guitar, or even a free music app on your phone.
The creative act of making music requires deep focus. This focus puts other problems in the place where your subconscious can process them. It also can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.
You can take this to the next level by sharing the song with someone else.
The next time you feel overwhelmed, try one of these music therapy interventions on yourself. It might not solve all your problems, but it will leave you better prepared to take on the world!
Sakina Issa is a psychotherapist and a mental health expert who addresses mindfulness, self growth, and topics related to parenting and relationships. Read more of her insights, or schedule an appointment by hitting the red button on this page.