Does Music Release My Emotions and Help Me Feel Better?

March 1, 2021 by Kristy

Almost exactly a year ago I suffered through a really traumatic experience.  Probably one of THE hardest things I have ever had to endure alone that was only affecting my self-esteem and self-worth.  In all honesty, I was being really dramatic and as far perspective this event wasn’t that big of a deal.  But I felt like my whole entire world that I built with my ideas and my time was being taken away from me, because it was.  That event caused me to feel depressed, I felt useless and maybe even worse – I felt worthless.  I wasn’t sure what my new place in this world was going to be and I didn’t want a new place.  I loved where I was.  After walking out of that situation completely composed and steel faced like a robot, I came home.  I locked myself in my bedroom and threw my gut wrenched body on my king sized bed.  I screamed into a pillow or maybe three and the tears started flowing.  I am not crier.  I actually hate crying.  I feel super awkward when people around me cry and I just don’t really know what to do.  I freeze up.  I physically felt ill, I was going to puke, I was shaking uncontrollably.  I couldn’t function and even worse I didn’t want to.  My kids and my husband could not help me, even though they wanted to.  This was something, I was going to have to come to terms with and I would have to figure out exactly how to pull myself out of this funk.

What seemed like an eternity of ugly crying, which was probably only an hour or two but yet 39 years of build up, I had the thought that I should listen to some music.  Remember I told you, I hate to cry – and the lyrics from the super old song, No More Tears by Lesley Gore popped into my head.  I remembered back 25 to 30 years ago as a kid my parents had old vinyl records and a record player.  I loved snooping around through their records and listening to the music that those records contained.  I would imagine in my mind that I lived during that era, I loved my parents 1960’s music.  It is funny to me how in a moment of desperation I can remember lyrics to a song that I haven’t heard for at least 25 years.  Those lyrics say, “Forgive my broken heart, but if the tears won’t start.  It’s cause I’ve cried and cried until my eyes have run dry.”  That was exactly how I felt at that moment.  I was done crying.  I no longer wanted to be upset by the traumatic experience, I just wanted to move forward and figure out how I could get over this as fast as I could so I could stop crying.  I hated the way I felt and I knew it wasn’t a good thing for me to suffer and dwell in this.

I am not super good at feeling my emotions, and probably even worse at expressing or explaining my emotions.  Most of the time I actually wish I didn’t have emotions.  But my go to emotion is always Anger.  Which explains why I listened to grunge alternative music during my teen years in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.  It explains why on my Pandora station I have 90’s Alternative Radio, Jewel Radio, 90’s Pop Radio, Everclear Radio, and Toni Braxton Radio all on rotation in shuffle.  Am I the only one who turns to music?  I found a study published about patients who were about to have surgery.  Participants were randomly selected to either receive anti-anxiety drugs or listen to music, right before the scheduled surgeries.  The levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the patients rating of their anxiety was tracked.  The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower levels of cortisol than the people who took the anti-anxiety drugs.  So What?  Music is more powerful than drugs?  The study went on to say that more research needs to be done because this is only one study but those results blew me away.  It made we wonder if the music is what pulled me out of my traumatic experience?

I recently saw a video of a cute little boy that has down syndrome singing along to his sister playing on the guitar, you are my sunshine.  The little boy has only recently learned how to talk and his parents are attributing the music to his talking.  My son Riley, who is 22 years old, suffers with a rare form of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS).  Ever since he was born he has always had this obsession with music. He loves it and although his vocabulary is also limited he can sing songs.  He even sings songs that are old or that I had no idea he had listened to before.  Somehow, even though he can’t tell you the difference between a penny and a quarter he can always remember a song.  The really awesome thing about Riley is that he can even tell you who sings the song, or which of his caregivers listens to the song.  This kid functions at a 2 year old level, but can think outside of himself to tell you WHO loves the song, fascinating right?  I found an article that researchers studied 21 people and found that listening to favorite songs changed the connections between auditory brain areas and a region in their brain responsible for memory and social emotion strength.  It also went on to say that each individual has preferences for their type of music.  In MRI’s completely different areas of their brains lit up when they listened to their favorite types of music or music they didn’t like.  The research I found, definitely shows strong links to music, your emotions, your mood and your brain.

So how or what does this mean?  To me, I know without a doubt, I would still be crying on my king size bed if the lyrics to a song I heard 25 years previously had not popped into my head.  If I would not have gotten up and went to my Samsung Bluetooth soundbar and connected my cellphones youtube application to sing my heart out with Lesley Gore, I would never have come out of my funk.  It did not happen in a second and even almost a year later I still sometimes feel sadness of that situation.  I am overcoming my hidden emotions and I am so grateful that I get to rock on with some really great music to light up different areas of my brain through this transition.  Music is really important and beneficial, I am so glad I live in a day and age where I have access to so much music.  Now I gotta go dance and listen to some great tunes!

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