The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Music as Medicine, Songs as Solace

The science behind how melody lifts mood

He who sings scares away his woes. —Cervantes
, writer

Music lifts moods. Psychologist and researcher Yuna Ferguson said, “Our work provides support for what many people already do—listen to music to improve their moods."

Upbeat songs of your own choosing can pull you out of a funk but sad tunes can do the same. Freud wrote that we feel better when we are exposed to art with pathos because we feel understood, as if we are not alone, and that we are connected to a clan of like-minded beings. Further, we experience the artist as a benevolent figure who sees, cares, guides, and expresses what we might not be able to voice ourselves.

Psychologist and researcher Dr. Anne Mieke van den Tol found that “an individual has intended to achieve mood enhancement through listening to ‘sad’ music.”

While you may already have the habit of playing songs, melancholy or otherwise, it is good to know that music enhances wellness. Just in case music has left your life or you fear you cannot spare time to listen, you might want to reconsider. Multitasking works here. Whether it is during car rides, morning routines, cooking, dining, straightening or organizing, music shifts moods and alters the course of the day. Listen, sing, hum or play your way.

Here are some quotes from great artists and thinkers.

  • “I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort whenever I am filled with music.” —George Eliot, writer.
  • “Without music life would be a mistake.” —Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, philosopher.
  • “Music's the medicine of the mind.” —John A. Logan, Soldier and writer.

Sometimes we neglect, ignore, or underestimate simple things that make a significant difference. What we innately know may be brushed aside until it is understood in a new way.

Music enhances health as well as pleasure. If you listen, sing, hum or play daily, just for a few minutes, you see a shift in your inner stance. I probably do not need to remind you that when your mood lifts, motivation, productivity, and energy increase. Your wellness benefits others in direct and indirect ways.

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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