Hi, I’m Nia, and 18-year-old British student, and I write for the blog Wonderlands Angels: I write about all sorts, so it gets difficult for me to categorize it.
So, when I got the chance to write about how music can help with mental illness, I jumped at the chance. I do have anxiety and have had it for many and suffered bouts of mild depression a few years ago.
Other than family and friends, I relied heavily on music to try and get me through.
But, I digress: here are 5 ways music can help you cope with mental illness:
1. It Actually Makes You Happier
Music is found to release dopamine: a chemical in the brain that makes you feel good, but in more scientific terms, it’s a common neurotransmitter in the brain that is released in response to rewarding human activity, linked to reinforcement and motivation.
Researchers from McGill University in Montreal tested and found that in fact, dopamine was 9% higher when people listened to music that they enjoyed.
Yes, depression isn’t just sadness and music may not have the greatest effect. That being said, if the person listens to music that they enjoy, the feel-good chemical will be released, and at least help slightly.
For me personally, this didn’t come as too much as a surprise; when having panic attacks, I listen to music or try and concentrate on any music I can hear around me. It not only gives me something to concentrate and focus on, but it does calm me down.
2. It’s Used For Therapy Already
Music Therapy is a highly regarded source of therapy, some of it being because of the reason above, but it’s also used for many other illnesses of the brain.
For example, dementia patients often use music therapy; the music played will connect to certain memories so that they can remember times or people.
This is because the area of the brain that connects music to people is one of the areas of the brain that lasts the longest, due to the impulses that it causes in the brain: when you hear music, listening involves the memory centres in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the frontal lobe.
3. It Makes People Feel Less Alone
This reason is pretty simplistic, and I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked it: when people are listening to music, the songs they often go to when in harder times have lyrics that relate to their situation.
This itself makes the person feel as if they are not alone, and their feelings are valid; a lot of people are afraid they’re making too much of a big deal about it, or are afraid of judgment.
When they hear artists who they like and admire have suffered the same problems, or have been in similar positions, then the person feels less alone. Music in this way offers some support that the person may not get in other ways.
4. It Actually Appeals To The Brain
Music appeals to the subconscious part of the brain: while people with mental health issues think a lot and may constantly be thinking or worrying, music appeals to that part of the brain, meaning that it gives a period where the brain is only thinking about the music, allowing the person time to rest.
This may be why people sleep with music on it relaxes the person and allows them to turn their brain off and sleep.
I found that when I’m going through a rough time and overthinking a lot, listening to music calms me and gives me something else to concentrate on: so as well as helping calm the senses and stop thinking, it also works as a distraction.
If you’re interested in what stuff I listen to in these times, try acoustic things; whale songs are supposed to help, but I know few people it actually helps.
Acoustic music will often relax, and also with lyrics, it goes into my last point, where it allows the person to be distracted from their own thoughts, and be aware that they’re not alone.
5. It Allows Your Voice To Be Heard (You Could Even Help Somebody Else Struggling):
This one I just wanted to throw in because I know it’s helped me a lot, and it does tie in. When I’m writing lyrics, playing an instrument, or even playing around with sounds to turn into something, I feel less stressed.
Creating music can be an outlet: if something is playing on your mind, writing about it can be a way to get it out, especially if you don’t want to directly say what has happened.
Personally, when I was going through a rough time a few years ago, I struggled to tell people directly what was going on, why I was struggling, and what had been going on behind closed doors. I still struggle to a certain degree now.
Instead, I wrote it all into lyrics, and now those lyrics are being shared, it’s my way of sharing my story and telling people what was going on, while at the time, it was my own way of therapy. I couldn’t say the words, so I put it all into music instead.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s a constant battle and struggle.
To find ways to cope with it, whether it be from music or other ways, is one of the best ways to combat the more rouge days: hope I helped a little.
Stay safe and stay happy!
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