Activities like journaling and listening to music help improve mental health
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Writing can be helpful to calm a person who is feeling irritable.
Being socially isolated from friends and family for prolonged periods was unheard of before, but now has been a prevalent challenge for many people. Virtual options such as video chats, texting, and phone calls are safe methods to communicate—but they are not the same as being able to say hello in person, and are especially unsatisfying when wanting to hug family and relatives.
Nonetheless, self-care is very crucial and paramount during these difficult times. Writing and music therapy appear to be two positive options to help people cope better during the pandemic.
According to today.com, writing (and especially writing letters) is a good way to cope better with prolonged isolation from friends and family. Lily Brown, director at the Centre for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, states that writing letters can boost one’s mental health: “It provides enhanced structure around the day, particularly for people who take a moment to be reflective about it. It might also help people get a sense of giving back to society by doing something consistent with their values, and those kinds of activities are likely to be helpful in the face of an isolating crisis.”
Brown says that writing can be helpful to calm a person who is feeling irritable: “Writing can be a potentially helpful exercise when any of us are feeling emotional because it can help to recruit activation of the executive functioning parts of the brain that help build rationality and help to give us some perspective. That can work to reduce emotional activation.”
Even having a simple blank notepad and pen, and writing down thoughts has mental health benefits. Dr. Sumera Shahaney explained to Bustle that “a blank page and the feeling of a fresh start is great for the mind. As a starting point, it helps you draw a line under things that have happened before, and makes you feel in control of a new destiny and path.” Shahaney also states that writing gives a person a sense of control and calmness as it “helps you develop order and connect with inner thoughts in a safe environment so you can work out what really matters.”
Another form of positive self-care is music therapy. According to the Music Therapy Association of BC’s (MTABC) website, music therapy is defined by the Canadian Association of Music Therapists as “…a discipline in which credentialed professionals […] use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.”
The MTABC website states that music therapy research and clinical practice have proven to be successful with people of all abilities and ages. Music therapy can address a person’s needs whether they are challenged by emotional, physical, spiritual, or psychological issues. At the centre of music therapy is the interaction between a trained therapist and a client (or clients) and the use of music. The client is then assessed by a certified music therapist, who then initiates a clinical plan for treatment as well as team and client goals. This will then determine the next course of action for clinical sessions if required. And the certified music therapist works within a client-centred and framework that is goal-directed.
According to the Peterson Family Foundation, music therapy helps to relieve pain and lower stress and anxiety for patients. Hence, this results in the following physiological changes: lower blood pressure, improved respiration, improved cardiac output, reduced heart rate, and relaxed muscle tension. Additionally, this type of therapy has been revealed to have a considerable effect on a patient’s perceived effectiveness of treatment including relaxation, pain reduction, respiration rate, and lower levels of anxiety.
Besides, George Millar, president of Friends of Nelson Elders in Care based in Nelson, BC, believes music therapy is very effective in treating seniors whose mental health has deteriorated. Millar stated in a March 2021 interview with the Saanich News that studies have revealed that music therapy is beneficial to the mental health of residents: “Elderly people who don’t really seem to show any alertness even about the general situation going on around them will perk up and pay attention and even get involved some when there’s music happening.”
Like the Robert Palmer song, “You Can’t Get Enough of a Good Thing.” It appears writing and music therapy are two good things for one’s mental health. And if you are unable to do them due to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, that is okay—reschedule and do them another time. Lily Brown says it is okay to not feel okay because the pandemic has been a challenging time for many people. She states that people should not feel alone, and mainly we should be nicer to ourselves during these difficult times: “Any time there’s a certain amount of uncertainty the emotion that tends to follow is anxiety. It’s an anxiety-fueled time for everybody.