Our moods and emotions can be affected by anything and everything around us, but how often do we think of how our choice of music affects us? Okay, you’re thinking that’s obvious—hearing songs you like makes you feel better. Well, that may be true, but there’s more to it. Different types of music affect the brain, and therefore, the rest of the body, in significant ways. Classical and other types of slow music have beats which slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure, giving a more calm and relaxing feeling. Faster and harder beats are found in rock music, which have the opposite effect. Heartbeat and blood pressure, as well as a general feeling of anxiety and irritability, increase. If you have any doubts about the effect of rock music on people, just think of the many instances of injuries and even deaths which have occurred at rock concerts. But have you ever heard of such things happening at a symphony orchestra concert?
It’s not just the beat of the music which affects our moods and emotions. Think of how you feel when you listen to a slow song with sad lyrics, or a soulful song with suggestive lyrics. Then think of the way you feel when you listen to praise and worship music. And how do you feel when you listen to hard rock music? Even if you like hard rock, you must admit that it makes you feel more aggressive. The lyrics in rock music are usually about negative things such as infidelity or rebellion, taking your mind to negative places. I can speak to this from personal experience. I was told that the rock music I “loved” had a negative effect on my moods, as well as my spirit. I refused to believe it because I didn’t want to give up my music. However, I did give it up, only listening to Christian music for about a year and a half. During that time, my depression decreased significantly. I would notice it when I went somewhere and was exposed to rock music. Immediately I would feel my mood change in a negative way, even if I liked the song.
What we associate music with is part of the effect that music has on us. If you associate a song with a fun time, you might get a smile out of it, even though your blood pressure is rising. But if that song reminds you of a past love that smashed your heart to pieces, it’s going to bring you down, even if you like the sound of the music.
According to the writers of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” many illnesses, including depression, are currently being treated with music therapy. Soft, slow music can relax muscles, reduce anxiety and irritability, and elevate a person’s mood. Research has shown that listening to soft music or relaxing sounds such as a babbling brook or waves crashing onto a shore, release endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Endorphins make us feel good, which is the exactly what you need if you are suffering from depression.
Another easy treatment for depression is color therapy (chromotherapy). Dr. Alexander Schauss, director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, explains that when color is perceived in the eyes, the pituitary and pineal glands are stimulated, producing certain hormones. These hormones influence many processes in the body, affecting feelings, moods, and even behavior.
Color is part of Feng Shui, a Chinese art and science which is supposed to balance energies in a space, promoting good health and fortune for those in the space. This is proof that we have known for thousands of years that color is an important element in the way we feel.
For those who suffer from depression and anxiety, it is best to avoid colors in the red family (excluding pink). Reds and burgundies are known to raise vital signs and increase brain wave activity. Blues and greens have the opposite effect, lowering vital signs and giving a calm, soothing and peaceful feeling. After finding this information years ago, I changed the paint in my living room from burgundy to a sage green. I was amazed at how different I felt in the room, even while I was painting it!
Purple and pink are also peaceful, soothing colors. Notice the next time you’re in a hospital or clinic—most of them use blues and pinks. Orange is good for stimulating appetite, yellow energizes and helps with memory, and black suppresses appetite and gives a feeling of self-confidence.
People who suffer from depression and anxiety feel much better not only in rooms featuring calming colors, but also while wearing these colors. So if possible, change the colors in the rooms where you spend the most time, put on a green shirt with some blue jeans, and listen to a slow song with happy lyrics. You might not feel like a different person, but there’s a good chance that you’ll feel much better!
James F. Balch, MD and Phyllis A. Balch, CNC. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group, 1997.