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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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