A landmark survey from the 1980s showed that lack of social connectedness predicts vulnerability to disease and death, above more well-known risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, and physical activity. Yet, 40 years later it seems that opportunities for social bonding are shrinking not growing. What are we still missing?
Although just one piece of the mental health pie, here are 3 ways I feel music can help:
1. Music is ‘Hormonious’
Sometimes life can throw you for a loop and what was once manageable becomes difficult, overwhelming and lonely. In the field of neuroscience, it is widely acknowledged that emotional and physical wellbeing are closely intertwined. Emotional distress and chemical imbalance in our brains and bodies are intimately linked. Medications can help to stabilize chemical imbalances and serve an important role in the treatment of mental health disorders. However, it can be challenging to find the right medication balance and mood-stabilizing medications often come with undesirable side effects. Music offers an alternative that can help us tap into our intrinsic mood-stabilization systems that are mediated by hormones and neurotransmitters.
As neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist, and best-selling author Daniel Levitin puts it, “The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it’s easier on the body.” One of the benefits of music at work is the way it can help you connect to your teammates. You may decide to allow individual team members to select the music on a rotating basis, so for one whole day, the team listens only to songs chosen by that one person. This can help to deepen relationships and foster a sense of connection among coworkers. We will discuss how to make music work at work in greater detail in next month’s blog post.
2. Music takes us back to feel-good moments.
We are always collecting music. Some of our collection gets released over time and temporarily forgotten while other music memories endure throughout our lifetime. However, under the right circumstances, all music is retrievable — meaning that we can remember it when the conditions are right. What you may find most interesting about the personal soundtrack exercise, though, is the realization that, by taking time to look at our music history, we can step back from our lives and see ourselves in a more objective way — which can feel very therapeutic.
Our earliest music memories are some of the most enduring memories we may have. Pay particular attention to these and to the feelings that are evoked when you think of them. I remember the first time my grade two teacher sang “One Tin Soldier.” To this day, I recall every word as if I had just learned it yesterday. Remembering him turning toward us kids and teaching us a “grown-up” song conjures feelings of belonging even though it is so many years ago.
3. Music increases feelings of connection
According to researchers, when we try to synch with others musically we tend to feel more connected and uplifted towards those people. Coordinating movement, such as drumming together or even just tapping our toes with another person releases endorphins in the brain that trigger warm and positive feelings. Activities, like curating a purposeful playlist, are structured to allow all participants to experience these critical moments of connection. Using and sharing playlists with others is an opportunity to learn about one another. It is about creating connections, staying curious about others, and listening to what is important to them. You may remember the song, and they may remember a story too. Together both of your lives will be enriched.
Whether we like it or not, it seems that feeling alone and isolated will always be a part of our life’s journey. There is no question that music has the capacity to help you with whatever you are going through. I honestly believe that music can be your sure friend. Every playlist you develop, every song you select, every chord you strum, can bring you into a creative process that will ease your mind and guide you to see your world through a different lens — bringing you a life that is fuller, and hopefully a little less lonely.