Improving Mental Health Through Music
By Guest Blogger Joel Syder
There are many things that can be done to assist those struggling with mental health issues, from medical intervention to lifestyle changes and counselling services. The needs of each individual are different and should always be assessed by a professional where possible. Yet within our lives there already exists means by which we can actively seek to improve our own mental health, and one of the simplest is using music. Music has many surprising and not-so-surprising benefits which add to mental wellness, and these are just some of the examples:
It helps us relax
One of the issues surrounding mental health is the inability to switch off – we live in such a fast-paced environment with so much stimulus that it can easily lead to mental exhaustion, which can certainly compound existing mental health struggles, or in some cases trigger it. Cell phones and social media have exacerbated the problem to some extent, as it becomes more difficult to retreat into a space where you are completely at rest. Music, however, can greatly assist in achieving calm, and the surprising thing here is that the style of music does not really matter: it’s all about personal choice.
“Obviously some styles of music can be classified as ‘relaxing’, but this is really in the eye of the beholder. Studies show that metal and high-tempo electronic music can be equally effective as the main purpose is to focus the brain away from its internal thoughts,” says Ray Dennis, a health writer at Writemyx and Britstudent.
It brings us together
An issue that can infringe on a healthy mental state is difficulty in making seemingly successful human connections. This situation can be compounded by so many variables that what we seek is a way that brings us together, not what divides us. And that there is the beauty of music: it is indiscriminatory of age, nationality, race, religion or any other category you care designate. As teenagers, many of us find friendship groups through our love of a particular style of music: from rockers to goths to metal-heads to whatever label you want to apply. Yet these musical ‘tribes’ all share one very important element: a love of music. Anything that brings us together and transcends the labels that are applied to us has to be good, not only for individual mental health, but for society as a whole.
It improves cognitive function
There is a plethora of evidence available to suggest that music can actually allow us to focus better on the activity at hand, whether that is studying or performing a basic task such as washing the dishes. Not all will agree, and it does tend to be a personal preference, but improved concentration can indirectly lead to satisfaction in successfully completing an objective. This is all connected to our sense of self-worth, which definitely does impact on mental health.
We can relate to it
One of the most beautiful aspects of music is that it can succinctly express a particular feeling we have at any particular moment. Whether this is a feeling of exultation while dancing on a night out, a sense of motivation when running, or even allowing us to express our sadness when that is the overwhelming feeling we have inside. Expressing our emotions is paramount to good mental health, as bottling things up is counterproductive. Music can act as the pressure valve: allowing us to cry when we really need to, for example. If you follow where the music takes you naturally, it can lead to emotionally letting go, which we all need to do sometimes.
Making music can help us express ourselves
From a similar perspective, sometimes we have something that we want to say, or an emotion that we want to express, but we feel that we just don’t have the words to do it. Making music, whether it is through instruments or even with our voices, can enable us to express emotions that we otherwise could not.
“In music therapy, making music is an integral part of the program. Not only can the sounds better express the way we feel inside, but sometimes the lyrics spill out in a way that words never would normally,” adds Heidi Sanchez, a therapy blogger at 1day2write and Nextcoursework.
These are just some of the advantages music can bring to our mental wellbeing. It may not be the complete answer, but it can help, which is important in itself.
If you are in a crisis, dial 2-1-1, in Connecticut. If you are outside of Connecticut and need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “HOME” to 741741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.
Wellness coach Joel Syder is a writer at Originwritings and PhdKingdom. He can often be found contributing pieces on mental health and wellbeing, and adds articles to Academicbrits about things that interest him and can contribute to a healthier state of mind.