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Overcoming Depression: Music as Therapy

Updated on June 20, 2011

Viva la Vida! Viva La Musica!

Let’s face it: the world and life are harsh. Not necessarily all the time, but certainly many times throughout life, existence may take turns at being a headache or nuisance, a long, aching pain, or a deep, gut-wrenching hole of disbelief and massive pathos, as when one encounters the death of a loved-one, or a romantic breakup from a meaningful relationship. Yet moving forward is necessary, no matter the calamity or catastrophe. For this reason, we must consider, preferably when we are at a high point in our lives, how we can find our joy. A great way to battle either ongoing depression, or shorter bouts of sadness, no matter how extreme, is with music.

Pain and discomfort and mind-numbing melancholy is all around us. For myself, when I grow blue from life’s downturns and doldrums, or simply from not enough sun, or whatever ails my joy, I find music to be a great salve for the soul. In fact, it is veritably a Godsend which I cannot imagine being without.

Music can come in at least 2 different mediums to help us regain our footing in life. One is singing. Someone once said something to the effect of ‘I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing,’ and I think this says truckloads. Simply singing sets a background that bespeaks control of mood. While not always effective, as after a break-up with a lover, the levels of endorphins that erupt in the brain are like a million tiny dolphins squealing a message of hope that grows with time.

If you don’t sing to yourself, or out loud, maybe now is a good time to start, whether you are experiencing a peak or a valley in your life. Soon you’ll build a repertoire of songs that will stir the base of your being and come to you with the strength of a great friend with a bowl of hot soup on one of your days of illness.

The other medium of listening to music is of course, via any of manifold electronic devices, as a computer or radio. I personally have a stock group of songs that I find bring me up, though I usually have a new song on my lips and mind or pouring from my computer speakers. At present, for instance, the song “Maria” by Blondie has a special importance for me, as does the song “Relax, Take it Easy” by the amazing new artist Mika. Older songs are always welcome, too, as with much of the music by Tom Jones, Earth, Wind, and Fire, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and literally hundreds of other singers or groups. A very fun, lively song is Harry Belephonte jr.’s “Shake Senora.” Of course, what list like this would be complete without Gloria Gaynor's classic "I Will Survive."

Yet a special note about music as therapy for the melancholic heart. Often when we are down or outright depressed, we or others try to shake us from our mood when sadness is the correct and necessary emotion to be feeling, as behind a death. Sad songs can aid us in living our pain to its necessary end, and may even, by their cathartic nature, speed healing along. For myself a sad song that’s always allowed me to know that I’m not the only person feeling glum is one by the British band Portishead. If ever a song were terrible in its sadness, it is “Roads.” Others of note are Blue October’s “Hate Me,” (the accompanying video is a heartache in of itself), the bittersweet “No Rain” by Blind Melon, “Black” by Pearl Jam (which even today continues to remind me of a departed friend, Michelle Von Emster) and, for myself right now, Bill Withers’ colossal song “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.”

Of course, these are just a few of my own personal favorites, and this list may be nowhere near to your own. The task now is to incorporate singing into your life, for it will be fuller for it. (And remember: don’t listen only to sad songs –the songs that remind us of how good life can be should fill the majority of our minutes as we dance to life’s song.)

Play a Song that Captures My Heart; Play a Tune that Makes Me Forget
Play a Song that Captures My Heart; Play a Tune that Makes Me Forget

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