As Elton John once said, “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
This quote is even more fitting, seeing as the musician himself struggled with addiction for a number of years. But for the past 30 years, Elton John has been successfully living life in sobriety. In this time, he has also written some of his biggest hits and won a number of the music industry’s most prestigious awards.
His story helps show how music can assist in healing the mind and the soul. Most of us aren’t Elton John, but the singer/songwriter’s struggle is one that millions of Americans know all too well. At Star Recovery Center in Southern California, we work with people struggling with addiction from all walks in life. We have seen first-hand how music can help those working to overcome substance abuse. The power of music may often be underestimated, but it is something that can help you manage stress, improve your mood and even distract you long enough to let substance abuse urges subside.
Music as a Coping Strategy
Just about everyone who has achieved long-term addiction recovery will tell you; the desire to abuse substances doesn’t just magically go away following detox and treatment. Instead, real long-term success is achieved by actively making healthy decisions every day. This road is a difficult one, and most people leave rehab with a number of new coping methods under their belt for a reason. Music can serve as an effective strategy for many people, especially when one is needed quickly.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just switching on any song. When you’re starting your new life in sobriety, it’s a good idea to create different playlists for the various moods or triggering feelings that make you want to use drugs or alcohol. Feeling really stressed one day? Through on your relax list. Feeling discouraged or unsure of yourself? Time to listen to some power music! Feeling too unmotivated to go out and get things done? A high-tempo energy playlist could be just the thing to get you moving! The exact kinds of song genres you listen to will depend on your taste preferences of course, but you get the picture.
Embracing the Effects of Music on the Body
If you’ve ever felt chills run down your spine while listening to certain songs or found yourself involuntarily tapping or twitching along, you may already be aware of the physical effects music has on the human body. But it goes deeper than that.
When you listen to music you enjoy, your brain releases the chemical dopamine, which elevates your mood, lowers blood pressure and even helps improve muscle tone and function. Listening to music frequently has also been shown to improve cognitive thinking and brain function, among other positive body effects. In fact, a study by the University of Washington shows that repeated listening to music can even help speed up brain development in young babies.
As for those struggling with addiction or staying sober, the physical effects of music may help in a variety of ways. For example, heightened dopamine levels can instantly help bring your mood back to a place where you can confidently opt for healthy options and feel good about your new life in sobriety. Likewise, improved brain function may help repair some areas that have been weakened by past drug or alcohol abuse.
Music Therapy and Behavioral Changes
In addition to improving mood and bodily function, music has also been shown to have powerful effects when it comes to behavioral changes. Naturally, this is of great importance to those of us who want to curb dangerous and unhealthy behavior patterns (such as those associated with addiction).
The thinking behind music therapy stems from the science of addiction itself. Because substances often give the body feelings of joy, the goal is to find ways to replicate these feelings through natural, healthier circumstances. Music elevates mood and releases dopamine, so frequent listening is an appropriate alternative for many people. Music therapy focuses on making alternatives like these your automatic go-to instead of substances, hence the behavioral shift.
In addition to helping you become reintroduced to this “natural high” feeling, your music therapy experience may also involve activities like meditating, singing or working out to music. All of these will in turn help you associate music with positive feelings and behavior.
Heal Through Music With Us
Interested in learning more about how music can help you heal and live a happy, healthy life of sobriety? We invite you to reach out to our team at Star Recovery Center in Costa Mesa, CA. In addition to offering music therapy as one of our addiction recovery options, we have a wide range of other treatments and coping methods that can help you finally achieve the life in sobriety you’ve been dreaming of.