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Music is one of humanity’s oldest art forms, with early musical instruments dating to 40,000 years ago. (Source). Music is also one of our most powerful art forms, with music long being recognized for its capacity to produce strong emotional reactions, from happy to sad, spiritual to haunting, rapturous to mellow.

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But does music have healing properties as well? Could relief from depression be as close as your music player? Read on to learn more about the powerful link between music and your mental health.

How Music Helps With Depression

Understanding how music alleviates symptoms of depression provides us with valuable insights into depression itself. For example, depression often involves imbalances or disruptions in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play pivotal roles in regulating mood.Person listening to music to fight their depression Music has a unique ability to stimulate the release of these neurotransmitters, essentially acting as a natural mood enhancer.

Listening to upbeat and rhythmic music can trigger the brain to release dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. This biochemical response produces the heightened positive emotions we feel when listening to soaring, emotionally-charged music (like a powerful film score or symphony).

This dopamine release also helps counteract the lower-than-optimal dopamine levels that can occur with depression. As your brain responds to the beats and melodies, it triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that add up to a more positive emotional state.

Additionally, music creates a powerful distraction from negative thought patterns. When you are immersed in a captivating piece of music, your mind is temporarily redirected away from distressing thoughts, providing a respite from the grip of depression. We’ve all had the experience of feeling like we were transported elsewhere by a particularly moving piece of music. In people suffering from depression, that mental transportation is like taking a mental vacation from the grip of depression.

Music and Depression: What Does the Research Say?

The connection between music and mental health has been studied repeatedly, with researchers finding a significant link between music and a reduction in depressive symptoms.
In a 2017 meta-analysis study (a review of other studies previously published), researchers found that:

“music therapy provides short‐term beneficial effects for people with depression. Music therapy added to treatment as usual (TAU) seems to improve depressive symptoms compared with TAU alone . . . Music therapy also shows efficacy in decreasing anxiety levels and improving functioning of depressed individuals.” (Source)

A 2020 meta-analysis study of 55 previously published studies found a similar result, with researchers finding that music therapy exhibited a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to a control group. (Source) The study also examined multiple different types of music therapy and found that music’s effect on depression varied based on the type of music therapy conducted, but found that all forms of music therapy had a positive benefit.

Music’s ability to alleviate depression is well-established, but exciting new research shows that music may actually be able to prevent depression and anxiety. The research is preliminary, and more research needs to be conducted, but an October 2023 study published in Translational Psychiatry found that music prevents stress-induced depression and anxiety in mice. (Source) Research studies in humans must be conducted before we can definitively say that music can prevent depression, but it is a promising finding.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Depression Treatment in Utah

The 2017 study referenced above, Music Therapy for Depression, found that music when combined with treatment had a more powerful effect than treatment alone. At Ampelis Health, we firmly believe that in-office treatments, such as TMS, are only part of a complete care plan. Activities conducted outside of treatment can have a profound impact on overall mental health, making treatment even more successful.

In fact, our treatment approach combines in-office transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with at-home learning and meditation through a mobile app. Part of the curriculum involves expressions of gratitude, exercise, nutrition, and other activities that bring positivity into your life. Listening to uplifting music is certainly one way to do that.

Listening to music often helps us to relax and unwind. During this state of relaxation our minds become receptive to adaptation, such as that provided during TMS treatment. The positive feelings that come from listening to music reinforce the positive gains happening throughout TMS treatment.

Our broad-based treatment approach demonstrates our commitment to providing patients with every tool possible to help them on their journey to overcoming depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.

Help For Depression and Anxiety

When dealing with depression and anxiety, it helps to have the best psychiatrists and tools in your corner. Our psychiatrists and nurse practitioners are dedicated to providing the best mental health care in Utah. We help patients find the treatment plan that works best for them, including treatment options such as antidepressant medication and TMS. But beyond that, we also help patients make meaningful lifestyle changes that help continue positive mental health even after treatment ends.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health challenges, schedule a visit with the experts at Ampelis Health today. With two convenient Utah locations in Ogden and Highland (Utah County), Ampelis Health can assist you in finding the relief from depression you deserve.

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