The holiday season is a sensitive time for many as we navigate the complexities of balancing family dynamics, societal expectations, and personal wellness. We wanted to take a moment to write about how music therapy and the intentional application of music in your environment could support your well-being.
The Therapeutic Power of Music
You could be experiencing joy and excitement, overwhelm and irritability, grief and sadness, a combination of multiple states in a moment, or over a period of time. Navigating family conflict, gift shopping and financial stress, the mental load of gatherings, personal triggers related to the holidays etc. It’s a demanding season, where we are called into a winter rest period yet our culture is in a “hustle and bustle” narrative.
Music therapy can support stress reduction through the intentional application of music within the safe container of a therapeutic space. Music also has psychological and physiological impacts to our health especially within emotional and mental health domains. Read more about the many benefits of music therapy here: Music Therapy Populations & FYVMT FAQs
Positive changes in emotional states which can be induced when listening to the preferred music of an individual. Music reduces agitation, stress, and anxiety. Research shows that music reduces depressive symptoms as low levels of serotonin can be increased through music experiences. The hormone serotonin is released when listening to music and is involved in the regulation of mood and sleep, as well memory and learning skills. Dopamine, the pleasure, reward-motivator hormone, is released also when listening to music.
A Study of Physiological Change and Stress Reduction
A team of researchers out of Florida state under Dr. Kumar, a leading researcher in music for health, took blood samples of 40 male seniors before 20 listening sessions and took another set of blood samples after the 20 sessions (4 weeks later). The results were that 3 of the 4 main brain chemicals that affect our mental state including melatonin and epinephrine significantly rose while listening to music–participants also reported an increased sense of calm after listening.
Creating Musical Holiday Traditions
When we are collectively called to create meaning and perfectionism this holiday season. Our hope is that you can find the time to define what is important and nourishing for you. We felt moved to share our thoughts as Certified Music Therapists on how you can intentionally apply music over the coming weeks.
- Festive Playlist Ideas
Be aware of how your mood is impacted when you hear a certain song or genre of music. It won’t be perspective and the exact same for everyone as our musical memories are connected closely to our identity. Here’s a couple of our favourites that connect us to meaningful states of emotionality this holiday season.
- To connect with states of calm, ease and relaxation: A Charlie Brown Christmas: Vince Guraldi Trio
- To connect with states of play and joy: Christmas with Boney M
Also, here’s a throwback to our December 2020 blog entry where we spoke about “Intentional and Safe Use of Music during the Holiday Season.”
- Awareness of Sound in our Environment
If you find that you are overstimulated take a moment to be aware of the sounds in your environment. Is there music playing? People talking? The sounds of the thoughts in your head? The buzz of the fan in the corner?
Take a moment to remove one, two, or maybe three of those stimuli. Walk away to have some alone time to simply breathe, turn off the item making sound, put earplugs in for a moment. In music it’s not all about the notes. But we also value the pauses or rests in the song. So we can be in silence and honour the moment.
- Community Music Rituals
As we connect in social gatherings, use music as a way to grace your space. By intentionally using the quality of the music and messages in the lyrics it can support your own well-being, but also impacts the energy of the space and the people around you.
Perhaps you are missing someone this holiday season. What music might connect you to that special person? It could be Christmas music, or something entirely different that speaks to your connection or honours their memory if they aren’t with us.
Warm Wishes from Our Clinical Team
You are in our thoughts and blessings this holiday season. Read more about Intentional and Safe Use of Music During the Holidays and Music Therapy with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
May you be happy, may you be healthy,
May you be free of suffering, may you be free of mental anxiety,
May you live in peace, may your life be blessed with ease.