The Power of Music — Survival Tool + Life’s Backdrop

February 24, 2024

Music has always been a comfort to me – it’s a way to process emotions and escape from reality. I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music genres, from musicals to rock to pop to jazz. Discovering and rediscovering music is fun and nostalgic and can be therapeutic. I also enjoy working out and doing cardio to music that motivates, energizes, and hypes me. The right song can get you through a challenging workout.

I have music for different times of my life. For a good mood, Bob Dylan’s The Hurricane or Tangled Up in Blue hit the spot. If I need to be energized, Sabotage by the Beastie Boys is my choice. And if I want to get hyped up, pretty much anything from Linkin Park with do the trick — specifically Faint or Breaking the Habit.

As you know, I advocate therapy (please see a therapist if you’re struggling with mental health issues). Still, I also advocate the use of music for therapy. Music is essential to everyone’s well-being and a great way to destress, release tension, concentrate, and get through days. Music can make you smile and laugh, sing and laugh, and give you a chance to chill. Music can be your companion and guide through the past, present, and future. Music can be like therapy, vibrating through your heart and mind.

Teens often use music as a way to escape their parents and authority. Their music can lead them through hardships, friendships, and newly explored relationships into adulthood. Music is a teen survival tool of sorts. I used music to solidify my identity, anchor me to reality, and solidify my fractured self. Music can give teens a baseline of self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence.

Likewise, music can support adults through their journeys and adventures in life, creating a backdrop to poignant memories and experiences. It’s a form of empowerment. Music can be very therapeutic and can help with emotional coping and expression. Music can be powerful with hospice patients, even at the end of life.

Research reveals that musical anticipation is the critical component in triggering the reward system in our brains, giving us a musical climax, so to speak. When we love the music, our brains release dopamine while listening. As I have talked about recently, dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays a role in how we feel pleasure, in helping us think and plan, and in helping us strive, focus, and find things interesting. When we listen to music that we are emotionally attached to, dopamine is released, and we get goosebumps or chills. The stronger the attachment, the more dopamine.

I physically need music to get me through some days. Music is remarkable and magical. What Dumbledore says in one of the Harry Potter books puts it flawlessly. “Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” Ideally noted, a life without music is not as charming of an existence.

As much as I would like to say it’s ‘magic,’ it’s all scientific. Music is the only thing that can activate all parts of the brain, as evidenced by CT scans. The brain unravels two highly complex but related stereo signals into separate pitches. Then, it relates their proportional relationships of harmonic consonance and dissonance over different melodic frameworks of time – all in a way to try to comprehend our environment’s natural sounds continually. Music has been central to human existence as far back as we can assess. It’s powerful even in death, leaving minuscule reverberations that converge into other sounds.

Music depends on your personality, emotional state, and personal tastes. A study demonstrated that you should listen to the music you want to hear and not the music you think you should listen to: Some people are better with calm or ‘sad’ music, so forcing energetic music when you’re not in the mood can actually worsen the situation.

For me, rock and musicals provide a window into another world. I love it when cultural and traditional mixing speak their own vernaculars. I love when music spikes my interest by being emotionally charged, no matter the genre. Music can be your escape from politics and the feelings of dystopia that have been consuming so much of the world and our lives.

Explore Spotify playlists, which are categorized to try out different genres. Experiment. If you’re not feeling a particular sound now, move on. If a song triggers an emotional response, put it into a playlist for future reference. Eventually, Spotify will capture your listening habits and customize suggestions. You’ll be able to add more to those playlists and even branch out to make more playlists that can be separated by mood or genre.

Amazingly, we have the majority of the music ever recorded available. It’s a true gift that we all should take advantage of. So, with those Spotify playlists, you can switch if you don’t like a song or style. There’s more music out there than you can ever listen to in your lifetime. You can start anywhere and develop your personal taste.

As much as we think music influences every facet of life, a neurological condition, musical anhedonia, causes people not to feel pleasure from music. I find that strange because I thought music appreciation was universal. But even so, some people are just not that into music and rarely listen to it. Music is life. It can suit any emotion you’re feeling at the time and can completely change a mood if needed. I really struggle to understand people who say ‘I’m not really into music’. So, what does music do for you?

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