Recently, the CDC confirmed that the strain of the current events has profoundly impacted the mental health of society. According to a recent survey of adults over 18 years of age in the United States, about 41% are reporting negative effects on mental or behavioral issues. Since March 2020, there has been a rise in anxiety and depressive disorders, trauma-and-stressor related disorder, substance use, and suicidality. The increase has disproportionately impacted the younger age ranges and minority racial and ethnic groups. (source, source)
Previously, I have provided various resources to assist with coping with such profound uncertainty and heightened stress. I have just posted a summary of helpful articles from a naturopathic doctor’s perspective on my Healing, Health, and Wellness blog. I hope you explore them and find some helpful tools to assist you with moving through these trying times.
In this article, I am going to present a bit of a different spin and explore other ways that often get overlooked for enhancing mood, emotional, and mental health. It is something I need to be reminded to partake in more. I’m going to discuss the benefits of having more fun and more music in life!
A Naturopathic Doctor Learns the Lesson of the Importance of Fun & Play
Within the past month, I realized I needed to double down on ensuring I was minding my own mental health. I was not my cheery self and my sleep was getting effected. If I was to continue to be at my best for my clients and loved ones, I needed to prioritize rest and rejuvenation as much as I told others to. Physician, heal thyself!
What was I missing?
My “fun prescription” consisted of my 11-year old niece, a little Garth Brooks music (yes we are “funs” of Garth), and a dance party with my family members. My symptoms resolved after a few verses of “Callin’ Batton Rouge” and “The River.”
After our family time, I contemplated about the difference I felt prior to and after my time with loved ones. My outlook and perspective had shifted. I had just experienced the healing power of “leisure time.”
The Healing Power of Music
The benefits of music for brain, physical, and emotional health has been validated. (source, source, source, source, source) Interestingly, I found one review article that reported on how participants’ favorite music CDs positively changed their brain activity. Using MRIs and PET scans, researchers reported on beneficial shifts in brain regions ascribed to reward and emotion (i.e., the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the orbitofrontal cortex) as subjects listened to their preferred music. Furthermore, they observed decreases in blood flow in the amygdala and the anterior hippocampal formation, areas related to fear and memory. This indicated that music could be a rewarding experience that decreased negative and fearful associations stored in memory. (source)
Music has also been shown to modulate the HPA (hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal) axis and resulting neurotransmitter and hormonal release. (source) This may be why many instinctively turn to music during emotional times, and, at the same time how music can impact our emotions and bring back different memories.
Leisure Activity and the Brain
Now, you don’t have to be a Country Music or Garth Brooks fan to receive the benefits of fun on mental health. Nor do you need to attend your family’s dance party. (Though, I do highly recommend it.) Any type of leisure activity may do to bring about a positive shift in mood.
Several analyses have found that spending time in leisure activity and the arts can remediate the negative ramifications of stress and low mood. (source, source, source, source) Furthermore, fun activities may provide a time structure which can benefit those whose routines have been disrupted. One study states:
What is already known on this subject
Exercise and leisure activities (social and self-focused) are receiving increasing attention as alternative non-pharmacological approaches to treating depression. Among possible mechanisms underlying this relationship, indirect evidence suggests that the time structure provided by recreational activities may be an important factor leading to mental health benefits. Interestingly, participation in recreational activities, sense of time structure, and depressive symptom risk all vary by employment status. Hence, the current study aimed at testing whether fewer leisure activities may contribute to higher risk for negative mental health by decreased time structure, and whether these associations differ between the employed, unemployed and homemakers. To address these questions, we used Amazon Mechanical Turk to assess depressive symptoms, leisure activities and time structure in 406 participants (155 unemployed, 140 employed and 111 homemakers).
What this study adds
For the employed and homemakers, time structure only partially explained the link between leisure activities and depressive symptoms, suggesting that time structure is only one mechanism among others. On the contrary, for unemployed individuals, mental health benefits of recreational activities—including exercise and social leisure—appear to be secondary to those activities providing a strong sense of time structure. If confirmed in longitudinal studies, our findings suggest that promoting recreational activities may not only benefit mental health in employed individuals, but in homemakers as well. For the unemployed, promoting social activities that provide a sense of daily structure may be a more promising approach to improving mental health.
(Source: Leisure activities are linked to mental health benefits by providing time structure: comparing employed, unemployed and homemakers. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017;71(1):4-11. doi:10.1136/jech-2016-207260)
Paying attention to our mental and emotional health is probably more imperative now than ever. The rise in substance use and mental health symptoms has increased substantially since March 2020. Along with the common means to keep our brain and mind sane, adding in some tunes to jam to and etching out some fun time for hobbies are important and can elevate mood.
This suggestion is not to make light of the seriousness state of our world, but as a means to help lighten the load a bit.
I welcome you to comment and share your insights below.
We are in this together.
Take gentle care and have some fun!
Mental Health Resources
If you are in need of additional support and professional health, please reach out!
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Uplifting Resources
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.