In this rapidly changing and stressful world, mental depression is a modern day epidemic affecting many millions worldwide. In fact, it’s likely that this chronic condition touches someone in your family or circle of friends. This can be a debilitating disorder that can destroy one’s quality of life and cripple the mind’s ability to execute everyday tasks. In this condition the brain’s normal chemical balance of neurotransmitters and neurohormones may be diminished or interrupted. Often the interlocking effects of brain chemistry and depressed mental states can lead to a downward spiral.
Neurotransmitters and Our Moods
An important neurotransmitter in the brain is called serotonin. It plays a big part in our moods and a sense of well-being, and as well has positive effects on memory, learning, sleep functions, body temperature regulation mechanisms, sexual desires, and other processes. Another is dopamine, which is known as the pleasure drug of the brain. Dopamine is associated with the reward system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person to repeat certain activities. Endorphins are neurotransmitters which help in speeding the process of healing. This is well known for effecting a sense of well-being and euphoria after exercise. Melatonin is a neurohormone that the brain produces in darkness, and affects the body’s sleep cycle and sense of relaxation.
The Brain Responds to Music
When you are engaged in listening and have the experience of “liking” music, this indicates that there is both a psychological and neurochemical process going on. When our minds have pleasurable experiences, there are always cascades of neurotransmitters accompanying the feelings. Music can effect a steep rise in the levels of serotonin and the accompanying mood improvement. Studies have measured changes in serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, melatonin, as well as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and prolactin following music therapy.* In fact, music therapy has been found to be very effective in treating panic disorder, seizures, depression, ADD/ADHD and insomnia.
Activities that change our normal active mind states, such as listening to music and meditation, have been shown to have beneficial effects on the brain, nervous system, and our moods. This is just one of the many ways that we can consciously choose what we tune into, and thereby help create the quality of life that we desire.
Let us know what you think! Do you have your own experiences where your moods and brain chemistry were positively affected by music? Post your comments below…
*Study conducted by A. M. Kumar et al, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine