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Music is great for coping!

During these difficult times, especially around COVID, we look for coping skills for anxiety, depression, and loneliness – these will continue to be important as we move forward through the pandemic and after.

I wanted to highlight several different coping skills and why they are effective. Each of us have our own experiences and references to music, art, meditation, exercise, community support and therapy. We find ourselves referring to coping skills we have used in the past and with which we are most comfortable. Trying new things can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially when we do not have the energy to try something new. However, when we know why and how it works the advice and information can be used more effectively.

For music, we may think of it as background noise, party information, meditational, elevator noise, or radio music while in the car. I want you to think of music in all these ways and more.

Music is:

· for listening, creating environment, calming ourselves, meditating

· To make music – using an instrument

· To improvise, and find new methods of creating

· To hum and sing

· To participate in a choir, karaoke, online, singing with a partner – as a social activity

· To remember positive and negative experiences

· To engage our brain, body and emotions thus helping us in processing

· To move physically through dance or listening to while physically exercising – engaging the brain, body and emotions together

Music provides a way to soothe us, creating a calming environment; or to energize us and encourage us to become active and participatory. Music has been identified as a primary way of stimulating the vagus nerve, which is the nerve connecting major organs between the brain and body, and a key organ in promoting healthy stress response. ( Humming and singing are a very direct way to engage the vagus nerve. By engaging the vagus nerve, we boost our nervous and response systems in the here and now, as well as supporting and toning the nervous system in the long term.

Music helps us be creative. It provides a means of learning, expressing, playing and improvising from what we know to finding new ways to enjoy and be. This teaches us to problem solve, think outside the box, as well as make mistakes and learn.

Music can engage us in activities with others – in person and virtually. By singing with others, through a choir, karaoke, or around a campfire, we engage both the attachment and attunement systems of our social being and the vagus nerve through singing, vibrating, and engaging in positive activities. It can also promote positive memories which provides an antidote to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Music provides a means of engaging in both an emotional and physical activity which aids in the promotion of processing of positive and negative experiences. While we may not be thinking directly about experiences, the action of music making, listening or participating in, or dancing and moving to, enables the activation of experience to happen in the background. This break from direct “thinking about” issues aids in developing new ways of seeing problems, and relaxation around the focus on an issue. It gives us space and allows us to see issues in a more objective approach.

Music is one of many expressive means of therapy that helps us cope and work through issues in this world. While I am an art therapist, and have studied how art, more specifically, promote healthy coping, music is a close method of healthy coping. I will often use music alongside artmaking to create an atmosphere and grounding for an experience. Music is very powerful.

I encourage you to try and engage in music in a new way to test out more of its power.

A pilot study on high amplitude low frequency-music impulse stimulation as an add-on treatment for depress. Gudrun Agust Sigurdardottir, Peter Michael Nielsen, Jesper Ronager, August Gabriel Wang.

A prescription for Music Lessons. Debra Shipman, PhD, RN.


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