Music therapy for broken heart

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 00:00 |
Peter Bunyasia, a gospel musician-cum-televangelist’s heartbreak healed through music. PD/Timothy Njenga

Feeling depressed following a broken heart? Pick music that expresses your emotion, crank up the volume, and sing along or cry it out.

You’ll feel better after that. Peter Nyongesa Bunyasia, a gospel musician-cum-televangelist is living proof of music-therapy research that confirms music helps a broken heart, and can be a first step in overcoming a difficult situation in life.

When his lover stood him up before their wedding day, he turned to music, which he describes as the best thing that has ever happened to his life. 

Bunyasia met the love of his life in 2006 in Busia. After seven years of courtship, they decided to officiate their union.  He was determined to make her his, and with that set up a committee of friends and family to plan their wedding.

“I loved her and actually thought the feeling was mutual, but I guess I was wrong,” Bunyasia recalls. A few weeks to the wedding, she simply vanished, leaving me in the dark, back in the village.

She didn’t even take time to say goodbye. “I was devastated I didn’t know what to do, I questioned myself so many times, ‘did I do something wrong?’ I just couldn’t help myself when I had to tell my family and friends that there was no longer going to be a wedding,” he says.

The worst part of it was that the committee had contributed about Sh300,000, which had to be refunded. This was the saddest moment of his life. He felt unwanted by someone he regarded as the love of his life.

It is then that he turned to music for consolation. He packed his bags and moved to Nairobi from Busia. He says he needed to change the environment to also help with the healing process. It is in Nairobi that Bunyasia started his music career. 

“Music helped me so much through the rough patch that I was going through. I would hear the words that the artist was singing and they resonated with me, I felt like I was not alone in my suffering,” he says.

Bunyasia’s experience with music is not different from Mary Lang’at who compares music to a drug that she can’t keep off, especially when she is going through sometdifficulties.

“Listening to music helps me in so many ways. Anytime I feel like I can’t handle my emotions any longer, I put on a slow jam and I am able to forget about the sad experience,” says Lang’at.

To her, music isn’t just about feeling good, but also about moving on from an unhealthy relationship. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a hurting friend, or a breakup, science has proven that music can help heal a broken heart. 

Music therapy acts as a neurological stimulator that incites reactions of a non-musical nature. Neurologist Oliver Sacks says, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory. … It brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Listening to sad music, including when experiencing “love sickness or a break-up”, can lead to beneficial emotional effects, a 2014 study titled ‘The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness’ found.

“Music-evoked sadness plays a role in well-being, by providing consolation as well as by regulating negative moods and emotions,” the authors wrote.


Experts say by simply listening to music causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to the brain reward system and feeling of happiness. But even more impressive is its effect on pain. 

Chitayi Muragula, a consultant psychiatrist says music can be a quick route of getting yourself to feel better.  

“There are certain pleasant practices, called social treatment, that can help calm down the brain, like eating, walking, music and hanging out with friends, this are the simple practices that can help in relaxing, especially while going through a tough time,” says Muragula.

He adds that Bunyasia was able to forget the past and how he felt about his ex-lover by using music as a way of consoling him and that regulated negative moods and emotions by getting out of how angry he felt when he was abandoned.

To him, music is used to bring a more positive state of mind that helps in keeping anxiety at bay, and also calm him down. 

“If you feel like you are going through a bad experience, it is great to tune up some music or even create your own music to be able to get over it, it helps so much and that is why you stay calm,” he says.

Muragula says for severe depression, advanced treatment is required.

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