Christmas is arguably my favorite time of year. Christmas lights decorate homes and trees, and brighten shorter days. Festive music plays, and children are excited for gifts and we enjoy the spirit of giving. Hopefully, we remember the birth of our Savior and try to be more like Him through love and service to each other.
Christmas also brings with it gratitude for blessings over the past year and hope for the year to come. But for some, the holiday’s also bring anxiety, depression, feelings of loss, or even disappointment. Those feelings can be even worse for those who are sick, who have experienced divorce, lost a loved one, or who are far from friends and family.
Even in the best of circumstance, the hustle and bustle of this time of year bring with it a lot of stress as we rush from dinners and parties, and hurry to “get everything done” before Christmas day arrives.
A Hopeful Solution
While there is no single solution to overcome the stress and trials of life, there is great hope through music and the Savior.
Music has been shown to have a significant positive impact on memory, attention and language. It has also been linked to emotion and behavior and is used as therapy to help individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, and agitation.
“Pleasant music is one of the best forms of brain ‘medicine’.” – Mark Robert Waldman
Benefits of Music
Pleasant music playing in the background is a great way to increase motivation and interrupt negative emotions. In fact, music is one of the most effective strategies for reducing anxiety, pain, depression, blood pressure, and other neurological symptoms.
Further benefits of listening to pleasant music include improved sleep, memory, learning ability, mood, and overall quality of life.
Good, Better, and Best
In life there are good choices, better choices, and even the best choices we can make. Music is no different.
2 “Music can enrich your life. It can edify and inspire you and help you draw closer to Heavenly Father. Music has a profound effect on your mind, spirit, and behavior.”
Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. If you don’t feel good about it, you don’t have to continue listening. There are many gifted artists in the world sharing their talents. Pick ones to listen to that are inspiring and uplifting.
Beyond Classic Carols
This time of year there is music everywhere. Holiday music is on the radio, in stores, and even on our phones.
Yet even Classic Christmas songs with their fun lyrics and upbeat tempos pale in comparison to music that brings the spirit of the Savior into our lives.
Close your eyes for a moment and sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It is classic children’s favorite. It is a fun, and happy song, and probably brings back fond memories and a smile to your face. This and other songs are fun traditions.
Now, close your eyes and sing Silent Night. A completely different feeling comes. There is nothing wrong with Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the other classic songs we sing at Christmas, but there is a deeper sense of joy felt with songs that remind us of the Savior, His life, and mission.
A Sacred Christmas
While music is a blessing in our lives and has many benefits, when we also remember and recognize the role of the Savior we can truly experience a Sacred Christmas for our homes, our friends, and neighbors.
This year in addition to my favorite Nat King Cole Christmas CD, I have added another album called A Sacred Christmas by Garth Smith. I love this album for many reasons. The artists are talented, the melodies are pleasing, but more than that, every single song on this album is about the Savior.
When I listen, I feel a renewed sense of hope, joy, and gratitude for the life I have the opportunity to live.
I have two favorite songs on A Sacred Christmas. The first is number three, Still Still, Still which features Michael Dowdle. It is a wonderful instrumental combining piano and classical guitar.
The second is number ten, Heaven’s Hallelujah featuring Lauren Sullivan. This is a fabulous rendition of the well-known tune of Halleluah, except the lyrics have been changed to focus on Christ. I can’t help myself from joining in the chorus.
I know from personal experience that when I have felt lonely, depressed, and anxious that sometimes even good songs with positive and upbeat lyrics did not help me feel the “holiday spirit.” In fact, sometimes, it even had the opposite effect.
As others sang of being happy and joyous, being home for the holidays, or with a loved one, and I somehow felt more lonely, depressed, and anxious. I felt like everyone around me was happy, and I was the lonely rain cloud in their parade. Instead of wanting to join in the festivities I just wanted to be alone and eating chocolate. Preferably in my jammies and in bed…
I found solace in music. The music that helped me then and helps me now, is music that either testifies of Christ or speaks of eternal truths. Even if the music itself is instrumental, it brings a calming and peaceful feeling. It brings hope, it uplifts, and brings comfort.
“My soul is always lifted up, and my spirit cheered and comforted, when I hear good music. I rejoice in it very much indeed.” – Joseph Fielding Smith
Create a Sacred Christmas
As we come closer to Christmas, let us remember the true meaning of our celebrations. The lights, the music, and the presents are all part of the magic and celebration of the holiday. But it is the birth of the Savior at the heart of our celebrations.
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Help bring Christ back to Christmas. Through music, and stories, traditions, and service, let us always remember Him.
- Chang, B. H., Chen, B. W., & Beckstead, J. W. (2017, Dec). Effects of a Music-Creation Programme on the Anxiety, Self-Esteem, and Quality of Life of People with Severe Mental Illness: A Quasi-Experimental Design. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. doi:10.1111/inm.12414. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29222834
- Garcia-Casares, N., Moreno-Leiva, R. M., & Garcia-Arnes, J. A. (2017, Dec). Music Therapy as a Non-Pharmacological Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease. A Systematic Review. Revista de Neurologica, 65(12), 529-538. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29235615#
- Goodreads. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/267076-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas
- MarkRobertWaldman.com. (2017). Retrieved from https://markrobertwaldman.com/
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/articles/music-quotes-from-lds-church-leaders-and-scriptures.html
- Thompson, G. A. (2017, Nov). Long-Term Perspectives of Family Quality of Life Following Music Therapy with Young Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of Music Therapy, thx013. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thx013