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The Therapeutic Power of Music, Books, and Movies on Mental Health

Stress and reading

The human mind is an intricate center full of thoughts, emotions, and sentiments that weave the complexities of our consciousness. Phew! That was a sentence full! But it is the truth, our thoughts, feeling, and other things that make up our experiences is not simple. Often times we may even have conflicts between thoughts and feelings.

It is the foundation of our capacity to connect, not only with other individuals but also with various forms of art, literature, and visual narratives. Let's explore these connections in more detail, delving into our ties with music, books, and movies, and how these forms of expression can provide therapeutic value and serve as tools for better mental health.

Why Do We Connect To Music?

You may notice that certain songs either the notes or the lyrics stick with you. Maybe you even notice that you listen to certain songs based on your mood, what you are doing, or what you are about to do. I know I have done this plenty of times, from songs that I need to have on in the background to focus on work, music to pump me up, or music to elevate my mood. Music is a universal language, that transcends barriers and connects us on a deeply emotional level. It is like a portal through which we can explore our own emotions, offering a unique platform for self-expression and reflection.

In the realm of mental health, music has been found to have an especially therapeutic role. It helps regulate our mood, reduce stress, and even alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. This is due to its ability to influence our brain's neuro-chemical systems associated with mood and emotion regulation, stress response, and reward.

Why Do We Connect To Books?

Reading is a solitary yet deeply immersive experience. It allows us to escape from our immediate surroundings and lose ourselves in the crafted world of characters and narratives. When we read, we tap into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others, granting us unique perspectives and understanding. These writings can even connect to us, giving us words that have been so hard to find for ourselves.

Books can be a significant tool in managing mental health. They provide a quiet retreat from our day-to-day pressures, a form of escapism that can reduce stress. Furthermore, reading has been linked to improved empathy and emotional intelligence, as we relate and resonate with the characters and their experiences.

What Do We Connect To Movies?

Movies, like books, offer us an escape, but they also provide a visually stimulating experience. They allow us to become engrossed in the story, experiencing a whirlwind of emotions as the plot unfolds. It's the magic of seeing a narrative come to life on screen, connecting with characters, and sharing in their triumphs and tribulations.

For mental health, watching movies can be a form of catharsis, allowing us to release and understand our emotions in a safe and controlled environment. This can also help with empathy, self-awareness, and emotional release, which are vital components of mental well-being.

Can You Have “Too Much” Music, Books, and Movies?

The answer to this is “well sure”. If you find that you after you spend your time engaging in music, books, and movies that you are left feeling worse than when you started, then sure, it might not be a matter of “too much”, it might be that they were not the right fit for how you were feeling at this time.

I have one example that stands out to me in my career… every week I would travel to see a child client and was pretty stressful. I found that I would enter the appointment already feeling anxious, my breathing was shallow, I was tense, I struggled staying present as I waited for a behavior to occur at any moment. I also would liked to music that amped me up (for me it was Emo or EDM). Well, that is not fair to that client, nor to me. I found that if I listened to calming music (for me it is Lo-Fi) as I drove to the appointment, I would enter more positively and less tensed. Just a little change helped me in that situation.

Benefits to Mental Health

Engaging with music, books, and movies provides numerous benefits. It offers a platform for self-expression, a space for self-reflection, a medium for emotional release, and a resource for empathy and emotional intelligence. These forms of art serve as constructive coping mechanisms, facilitating mental resilience, reducing anxiety and stress, and enhancing our overall mental well-being.

These mediums can help provide us the words to how we are feeling and how we are thinking when we are struggling to find those words. It can be hard to find the right words to describe our feelings or thoughts at times.

Other Creative Ways to Improve Mental Health

Beyond these, there are numerous creative activities that can be employed for improving mental health.

  • Art therapy, including drawing, painting, and sculpting, can serve as a powerful outlet for self-expression and emotional release.

  • Gardening can provide a calming and mindful activity, creating a sense of achievement as you nurture your plants.

  • Journaling can also be an effective tool, offering a private space for self-reflection and emotional processing.

    • This is a practice I encourage my clients to use. This practice I help guide in different ways whether it is “getting your thoughts out”, writing with a prompt, highlighting positives, noting things in your control, and more.

    • While I do processing in therapy with a client, it is always helpful to have something outside of appointments because something can come up at any time that needs time to review. It is almost like you are in a conversation (therapy) and hours later you remember something you wanted to talk about, journaling is a tool that can be the bridge to the next appointment and having a skill all to yourself.

  • Physical activities like yoga, walking, hiking, running, and meditation have been found to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting mindfulness and a sense of inner peace.

The power of music, books, and movies, along with other creative outlets, can be harnessed for improving mental health. These resources offer a sanctuary, a safe haven where we can understand ourselves better, express our feelings freely, and navigate the turbulent seas of our inner world with a little more ease and tranquility. It is essential to remember, however, that while these activities can aid in managing mental health, professional help should be sought when necessary.

As you journey through your own mental health landscape, remember that it's okay to seek solace in these creative outlets and take the time to connect not just with others, but also with the world of art and creativity that surrounds you. After all, it's these connections that often bring the most comfort and healing.

If you are interested in learning more about how creative outlets can be used as strategies for your mental health or want to discuss how you connect to these creative outlets, you can schedule your free introduction meeting today at Better Minds Counseling & Services!

Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.


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