A Rhythmic Remedy: How Music Can Heal in Times of Trouble

Avika Sharma explores her experience with using music as healing tool.

Avika Sharma
23rd February 2021
They say that laughter is the best medicine, but I would definitely argue that music is instead. For as long as I can remember, music has helped me through some of the best and worst times of my life; whether it acts as a soundtrack to a situation or allows me to heal from difficult times, it’s always provided some kind of relief for me. Today, I’m going to focus on the latter of the two.

In my opinion, music is absolutely a type of medicine. It’s fascinating how something so abstract and arbitrary, this remedy without a physical form (no, I’m not counting CDs or vinyl), has the ability to alter the chemistry in our brain and allow us to feel better, or simply help us to acknowledge that we’re not okay. Personally, I use music to heal whenever I feel sad, angry, stressed out, or need a distraction, and I do this through two different methods. The first is through despondent, emotional songs, and the other is through cheery, upbeat songs.

We’ve all had that typical teenager film moment where we’re feeling low, so we put on a sad song and stare dramatically out of the window, but there are actually a few scientific theories surrounding the concept of why sad music helps us when we’re feeling upset. Some say it’s chemical, by linking sad music to the hormone prolactin, and others say it’s psychological - because someone else is going through something you resonate with, it helps you feel better. It’s also very cathartic when you’re unable to express exactly how you feel to instead put on a song that articulates what you want to say, while simultaneously taking off the pressure of trying to say it yourself.

It’s very cathartic when you’re unable to express exactly how you feel to instead put on a song that articulates what you want to say

Alternatively, sad songs can simply explain how you’re feeling when you’re unsure yourself. I personally have a playlist dedicated to songs that either illustrate how I feel, remind me of specific situations, or simply just sound melancholy enough for me to be sad with. In instances like these, personal favourites of mine are ‘Nobody’ by Mitski, a beautifully written song that just shouts out her sorrows, and the acoustic version of ‘A Sadness Runs Through Him’ by The Hoosiers, a song with a melody so mournful that it feels like it captures my soul in times of hardship.

On the other hand, sometimes when you need music to heal, putting on upbeat and fun music that makes you want to sing or dance can be a wonderful way to motivate or cheer yourself up. I like to listen to this kind of music when I just want to feel better about something or myself, and again I have a dedicated playlist full of songs that are great to shout to, dance to, have fun little melodies that make me happy, or remind me that things aren’t going to stay bad forever. A couple of songs in this category that I particularly recommend are ‘Weightless’ by All Time Low, which really does make me believe that “maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year”, and ‘It’s Alright’ by Mother Mother, which I think explains enough just through the title.

I’ve been in many situations where I’ve used music as a healing tool. Bad mental health days, friendship problems, insecurities - you name it, I’ve used music to cope. It definitely isn’t for everyone of course, but I love that a few minutes of sombre melodies or energetic tempos can help me process and acknowledge that I feel sad, and that it’s perfectly okay to feel like that.

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