Music Therapy Is Part of My Daily Healing Practice — Here's How I Use It

click to play video

Growing up listening to Celia Cruz, Juan Luis Guerra, and other musical icons, I've learned to use music as an outlet to get in touch with my emotions. Whether it's a verse from a salsa ballad or the words from a famous pop track, music relieves my stress and uplifts my spirit. It's no secret that music and sound can transport us to places and bind us to emotions, experiences, and more. According to the American Psychological Association, "Music therapy can improve health outcomes among a variety of patient populations, including premature infants and people with depression." Learning this technique continues to be one of my tools for processing emotions, trauma, and grief living with depression and anxiety.

My favorite way to honor my emotions is to create a different playlist for every mood. A classic like Selena Quintanilla's cover of Disco Medley is just what I turn to when I'm feeling optimistic. My serotonin levels increase instantly when listening to the late Tejana star sing a disco mashup of Gloria Gaynor, Van McCoy, and Donna Summer. Selena's portrayal of iconic disco queens gives me an instant boost of energy wherever I go.

Be You Bloom CEO and certified hypnotherapist Jessica Morales says, "Upbeat music fuels the brain's energy and releases feel-good chemicals that fuel motivation." She explains further, "Selecting songs that evoke positive feelings like happiness or excitement increases the release of dopamine." This resonates with me since I experience a mind-body connection when listening to upbeat tempos and rhythms in music.

click to play video

When I feel helpless and anxious, I listen to Enerolisa & El Grupo de Salve de Mata Los Indios. My grandmother often played this band in the background when I visited her as a toddler. I would listen to the drums and chants of African-derived music, which included instruments traditionally used during sacred ceremonies to communicate with ancestors. Today, I continue using these songs to relieve emotional distress as well as physical discomfort.

According to Sound Practitioner and Reiki Master Devon Whitaker, "Sound is considered the oldest form of healing." She further explains that different musical tunes and sounds send our bodies vibrations which can heal the nervous system and balance emotions. "Think of drumming circles, church bells, and more," she said. So every time I want to ground myself, I turn to melodies with empowering chants such as My Little Light, by Beautiful Chorus. The vocal group lead by Alexandra Love uses music to spread a message of harmony, peace, and unity. Their rhythmic sounds and songs are full of mantras and hymns that reminds of and fosters community.

If I'm experiencing sadness, fear, or anger, I listen to Mi Historia Entre Tus Dedos by Mickey Taveras. The soothing sounds of piano, guitar, and vocals help me let go of any bottled-up emotions. In some situations, I shed tears and journal about it, and in others, I place my hand to my heart and sing aloud to myself.

Listening to music is a part of my daily routine, as it has become a form of therapy. The incorporation of music along with working with a clinical therapist has changed my life. As someone who is vocal about sharing my experience managing depression and anxiety, I highly recommend creating playlists as a tool to honor your mental health.