Using Music to Identify Your… | Counseling | Therapy

Using Music to Identify Your Emotions

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Using Music to Identify Your Emotions: Have you ever had the experience of feeling a little down? Then from the radio drifts a song that lifts you straight out of the lows and into a dancing, head nodding, top of the lungs singing, grooving good time. Sound familiar? Ever wonder how this is possible? Well, it turns out that music and your brain relate to each other in a very special way. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression this relationship can be very beneficial.

Did you know that music actually gets the entire brain involved in the experience of listening and processing? Studies have shown that when music is played the entire piece gets broken down by your brain. Music literally causes your brain to exercise. From tempo to rhythm, pitch to melody, instrumentation to vocals, all the various aspects of music interact with different areas of your brain. For instance, the cerebellum engages to process the rhythm. The right temporal lobe engages to help determine the pitch that you're hearing. The frontal lobes step in to decipher what emotional vibes are being created. The nucleus accumbens releases dopamine, yes dopamine, that natural feel-good substance created by the body. The amygdala gets activated to process and trigger moods. The hippocampus which deals with memory and responses lights up helps to improve focus and memory. Studies have shown the effect of music on Alzheimer's patients has led to an increase in memory and clarity of thought, while listening to music and for a short period of time after. The hypothalamus gets involved by releasing hormones to regulate the body, which can be seen in reduced heart rate and blood pressure. Both sides of the brain begin to communicate with each other due to the activation of the corpus callosum and an area found midbrain, the putamen, gets an increase in dopamine, which helps body movement and coordination. A study by the University of Central Florida reported that music has been shown to actually stop the effects of Parkinson’s disease with a patient, while they are listening to music.

Music was found to be so beneficial, for improving mental and physical states, that it was employed during both World Wars to help wounded soldiers and medical personnel. It was found that by playing music the soldiers, doctors and nurses had positive changes in their moods and emotions. Think of how society uses music, from celebrations to movies. Music can be used to identify emotions and create a setting that inspires improved mood, thoughts, and feelings. Music has been shown to lower levels of anxiety, and blood pressure. It can directly affect stress-inducing hormones.

So let’s begin your personalized brain groove journey. Let's begin using music to identify your emotions. The items you’ll need are a journal or piece of paper to record your thoughts, a device to play music, and an amazing music source. Now let’s begin.

  1. Think about your current mood. What song would best describe your thoughts and feelings? Once you select the song, take a listen and write why this song represents your thoughts and feelings. What about it resonates with you? How does this song speak for you? When you're looking at this song, the key is not getting stuck in this song’s mood, but understanding what you are experiencing, acknowledging and then moving forward to your desired mood.

  2. Now that you have the song to identify your current mood, think about the mood you would like to transition to. What song would best represent that mood? If happy, what song evokes happiness? If peaceful or calm, what song would create those feelings? Now that you’ve found the song, write down your thoughts concerning the song. What about this song makes you feel_______? How does this song represent that feeling? Does this song remind you of a special place, person, or activity?

  3. The next step is to continue to find songs that represent the mood you want to be in and compile your playlist. Once your list is complete, let the music work its magic. Dance, sing, clap, sway, and have a head bobbing good time.

  4. The final step is to engage in your brain groove several times a week. Set aside time to brain groove. Start 2-3 times a week, for maybe 15 minutes to start with, and work your way to longer times. Just as you would take the time to focus on physically exercising your body, take the time to physically exercise your brain and emotions. Pick a time free of distractions, like having a personal customized concert, where it's just you and the music. No work, chores, homework, TV, etcetera. You may even want to consider having a loved one join in on the groove time and invite them to express the emotions they are experiencing.

When anxiety and depression start weighing you down, finding strategies that can help you regulate and shift your mood can be helpful. If you find that you were not able to achieve the full shift in mood that you were looking for, no worries. Learn to celebrate even the smallest shifts. Acknowledging and celebrating even small accomplishments are important. Keep in mind the big picture, which is greater understanding of your emotions and getting in touch with your moods. Just be open to exploring what the music is doing for you. How does it speak to you? What about it helped you get to your desired mood or almost got you to your desired mood? Were there distractions, etcetera? Being open and curious while tuning into your music can be a very effective and fun way of helping you cope. Whether it's creating a cheerful mood or getting in touch with your zen, music can lend a helping hand. So go rock or vibe out to those tunes and let your emotions soar.

If you would like further support along your journey, to manage your emotions, please schedule an appointment with a trained therapist who can help you use music to identify your emotions. Support is just a phone call away. Call (215) 922-LOVE (5683), ext. 100. A therapist at The Center for Growth will be happy to help you. We have offices in Society Hill, Philadelphia; Ocean City, New Jersey; Mechanicsville, Virginia. We also work with clients virtually in many other states.

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