Grief is a powerful emotion that alters the chemical balance in your body; sudden loss (an unplanned, prolonged separation) triggers a cascade of changes that lead to depression. Research has shown that a brain chemical known as “corticotropin-releasing factor,” a neurotransmitter released as a stress response, was elevated in persons who had experienced the sudden loss of an intimate partner.
The human body has a mind of its own; it does what it does without necessarily seeking your consent. Therefore, you cannot just “get over grief” – you must find ways to balance the negative effects of the stress-induced chemical imbalance in your body, which influences your mind and cognitive and emotional functioning. Research also suggests that music has a powerful influence over emotions. We all know that music has been used for eons to “express” emotions. But did you know that music is also a powerful means for “inducing” emotions?
Empathy through Music
Grief brings on emotions of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness. Should you listen only to happy music to help cheer you up, or is there a place for sad music? The answer is a grieving person struggles to find others who can understand or truly empathize with the depth of the emotions they are experiencing. There are times when the lyrics of certain songs will resonate with you on your grief journey. It is certainly acceptable and even helpful to listen to these songs – it allows you to experience the feeling of being understood. It validates your grief and pain. You have found empathy.
Fighting Depression with Music
However, it would help if you also recognized that part of the grief journey is actively fighting to climb out of the abyss of grief. It is a daily, even hourly, quest to experience a glimmer of joy and happiness. While finding validation for your suffering, you must discover external means to lift your spirits. Listening to upbeat music can bring about precisely this balance. It will offer your grieving heart a momentary respite from sadness. No matter how fleeting this moment of cheer may be, it interferes with the imbalance of elevated cortisol in your body.
Somehow, music is inextricably linked with our brain’s reward center. Dopamine, the “feel good hormone,” is released when we experience anything pleasurable. In a recent study, levels of dopamine were found to be up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed.
Actively engage in combating your grief. You cannot change the circumstances surrounding your life, yet you must find a way to keep moving forward daily. So treat yourself; reward yourself – there are many
ways to do this; an evening out with friends, a glass of wine, a long walk on a trail, or a soak in the bathtub. Every one of these experiences can be enhanced by listening to cheerful music.
Let the music be the medication that soothes your mind and influences your emotions; your body will follow suit. Let it trigger the release of the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin. You are “faking” your body into releasing something it does not want to do because grief and sadness have overtaken it. Fight depression. Fight the chemical imbalance. Fight the harmful effects of excess stress hormones. Fight with MUSIC. 🎶 🎼 🎵
“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”
- 1 Corinthian 14:15
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