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How Does Music Affect Our Resilience?

Updated on July 14, 2014

What is Resilience?

Before we examine how music has the power to affect our personal resilience we need to understand what resilience entails. The true definition is "bouncing back " or a returning to form. There are millions of men, women and children in the world who lose loved ones, suffer brutal trauma, tragedy and abuse. Now these extraordinary adults and children have not only gone on to become successful teachers and motivators they inspire others with their courage and strength to push forward, adapt and persevere despite intense grief and pain.

Since childhood all of us have struggled or experienced misfortune to a certain degree. Some people may be born with greater adaptability. Just as many cognitive scientists believe we are all born with varying levels of empathy we may also demonstrate different degrees of resiliency. Unless life presents us with early obstacles such as the death of a loved one or physical impairment to test our metal, we will need to exercise techniques to develop our emotional strengths.

How Do We Develop Resilience?

Resilience, like any other skill such as learning to read or play the piano must be taught, observed, practiced with dedication and conscious effort. By testing ourselves we develop the ability to overcome fear. Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you dread performing in front of an audience? Are you horrified of flying or driving a vehicle? There are measured steps we can take to gradually conquer our own fears. Some of us will seek out psychologists, mentors or teachers and others will research and challenge ourselves on our own.

Most lessons in resilience are learned simply by being alive as a member of the human race. Have you ever been injured in an accident? Do you have children? Have you been through a divorce? Have you lived through war or combat? Did you experience the death of a loved one as a child? Have you been a victim of neglect or violence? The list is never ending. Opportunities to build our strength and grow are presented to us every moment. Patiently, we will gain the insight and courage needed to sustain true wisdom and form our resilience.

Recognize that you have a choice. Remaining emotionally paralyzed or learning how to overcome your fear is a choice.

Accept change. Change is a natural part of the universe. It is happening all around us and within us at all times. When we constantly struggle against change, mentally, we can do more harm than good.

Let go of anger. Let go of any emotion that will fester and cause you shame, guilt, frustration or resentment. Learn to understand yourself and cultivate self-awareness. Show others compassion but more importantly show yourself compassion.

Learn to laugh. Put life and negative situations into perspective. Pessimism and negativity stem from our inability to poke fun at ourselves. Satire and a sense of humor come from the deep understanding of the beauty and absurdity of life.

Develop a sense of meaning by making connections with strangers, loved ones, animals, organizations and especially through your own personal expression of culture and art.


Resilience and Musical Therapy

Musical therapy has been used during crisis situations such as following the 2001, September 11th attacks in New York and Washington DC, with returning combat veterans, victims of Hurricane Katrina and countless other post traumatic life experiences. Music therapists assist survivors of domestic abuse and children with learning and developmental disabilities.

The structured and non-verbal elements of music therapy allow people to express latent emotions and draw out feelings that otherwise would continue to build up causing anger, frustration and fear. Music is non-threatening and non-evasive leading to improved coping skills. Music therapy often leads to greater awareness which results in understanding and resilience.

Imagine how simply listening to our favorite songs motivate us or make us feel relaxed. Listen to your favorite song right now and note how you immediately feel. Are you happy? Are you at peace? Do you feel like every cell in your body is vibrating and alive? Now imagine utilizing this technique every day. Music therapy helps people regain a sense of connectedness, emotional awareness and recover or discover meaning.

The effect of music therapy on depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Music Therapy, 42, 140-158.

Music and Resilience - The Power of Sound

How does music have an effect on our resilience? Neurological studies performed on the brain seem to indicate human beings are hardwired to interpret and emotionally react to music. Music stimulates numerous parts of the entire frontal and temporal lobes when sounds are processed.(Source: Live Science)

Music which makes us feel happy activates the same reward/ pleasures centers in our brain which releases dopamine. Similar stimulation arises after we have sex, ingest certain drugs or eat a piece of decadent chocolate cake. Is it any wonder Rodgers and Hammerstein penned lyrics bursting with warm, fuzzy optimism for "My Favorite Things" in the classic musical film The Sound of Music? Everything associated with making us feel better was transformed into a glorious harmony and melody.

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens..."

Music arouses our emotions. When our emotions are stimulated we may feel joy, sadness or even a touch of anger but we ARE feeling something. Being aware of our feelings is what brings us closer to our music-resilience connection. People who allow themselves intense emotional release seem to have a greater capacity for empathy. Cognitive empathy is strongly associated with understanding other peoples feelings and emotions thus the sincere appreciation for music is a human bonding experience. In fact every culture on the planet creates music. When we shed tears or feel overwhelmed by a musical composition we are deeply engaged in our emotional experience. We are sharing our humanity on the highest level. We are alive and strengthened by the sound of music.

Born or Made?

Do You Think You Were Born or Made Resilient?

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Submit a Comment

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    CrisSp, Audrey, RQ- - Thank you so much for reading and responding. Music is a beautiful, powerful force.

  • Romeos Quill profile image

    Romeos Quill 4 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

    Typo; ' camaraderie '

  • Romeos Quill profile image

    Romeos Quill 4 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

    Music's affect upon resilience is such a' tour de force '; its like the band-aid of life, and trims back many a mental jungle; its lofty praise glorifies the Creator, lifts the spirit and assuages madness. It's universal language draws mankind together with common bonds of empathy and cameraderie and as William Shakespeare exclaimed,

    " If music be the food of love, play on..... " ( Twelfth Night, Act One, Scene One ( Duke Orsino )).

    A marvellous, informative and insightful article dear Lisa.

    Thank you; sharing and pinning.


  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

    Very interesting article! Certainly there are studies that show that music affects our affect--and I would imagine that has a whole host of implications---

  • CrisSp profile image

    CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

    I love the vibes in this hub...can't live without music, be it for me to dance or to weep or simply for the pure joy of listening. There's just something effectively magical every time I tune in. Couldn't agree more on you on the power of music!

    Great, delightful read! Voting up, pinning and sharing!

    Love from the sky~

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago


    Thank you so very much for commenting on this article. You don't know how much I appreciate what you've written. It really means so much. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man who I know has an incredibly thoughtful and talented grandson. Once again thank you so much, Alex. Peace to you and your family always. Our passion for music reminds me of a quote from the Tao of Pooh, " Music and living-same thing."

  • mercuryservices profile image

    Alex Munkachy 4 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

    Hey Lisa, I like the way you connected emotional expression back to music and the ability to be empathic. I can tell you are an honest, deep and thoughtful person and what you wrote here really resonated with me and will probably resonate with many others who understand music. Music is connected to all that we are as human beings. It's an expression of everything that we are. I recently went to visit my grandfather, who has a PHD in music. He attributes his longevity to music. He showed me some of his favorite operas, and cried during his favorite ones. Maybe the key to music appreciation (and happiness in general) is becoming more free in terms of emotional expression. "People who allow themselves intense emotional release seem to have a greater capacity for empathy." I agree with that. One important part of making connections with others and personal growth is sharing emotions with others. Those who keep themselves on an emotional short leash or refuse to let out "unacceptable" feelings are only cheating themselves. It's impossible to appreciate life or be an authentic person without dealing with the emotional side of life. That's something I have realized only recently, so thanks for reinforcing that insight. Take care and keep writing.

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    Thank you for so much for reading the article, Flouish. Your commentary is always insightful.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

    Great topic. Many people find music so inspirational. I used to find great joy in it as well, and at one time played the flute. When I was diagnosed with MS, something along the way happened that I don't understand and I completely lost connection to music. For someone who loved it so much it is befuddling to me. I know it's a brain thing, but weird. I almost have to force myself to listen to it. Great hub. Voted up and more!

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    Thank you so much for reading and providing us all with a very poignant and insightful comment, tirelesstraveler.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

    Positive music makes for positive attitudes. It never occurred to me that having my first go with cancer at 4 should have gotten me down. It never occurred to me I should be a cripple because I could only see out of one eye. I was weaned on the music my dad played in the Cal marching band. John Philips Sousa, Handel and the Beatles were great friends of mine.

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago


    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. All of that wonderful music inside of you is the soundtrack of your life.

  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 4 years ago from San Diego California

    Music goes with me everywhere, although I mostly just carry it around inside my own head, where I have more songs stored than any iPod. There is no doubt that music is a mysterious, yet fundamental part of being human. Great job!

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Bill. I couldn't agree with you more. Enjoy your weekend. Peace to you and your family.

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    Synchronicity. The Souls we adore appear when we need them most. Thank you, Joe.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Very interesting topic and you have raised excellent points. I think music, and the Arts in general, are so important for our well-being, which you have pointed out well my friend.

    Have a wonderful weekend.


  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Good morning, dear Lisa! I wish there had been a sixth voting category--INSPIRATIONAL--because this hub of yours was definitely that, my friend. It was certainly indelibly written by one who exemplifies not only that life-altering trait but who has gone on to harness its tremendous power and energy with great success in a life of helping others. Thank you so very much that I am one of those you've emotionally and spiritually moved. Aloha, Lisa! I am still with you from afar.