This opinion piece seeks to guide the reader in understanding the beauty of fusing mental health healing with music. Music has always been a way of getting people from different nationalities to communicate without necessarily understanding language, it has always been a common denominator for the purpose of bringing people together. On the other hand, mental health has also been somewhat a taboo among people in general. On a more generic level, people have been very shamed to speak openly about mental health. However, perceptions and feelings towards mental health have evolved overtime. The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a significant role in the up rise of issues around mental health. It is now common understanding that speaking about mental health issues does not insinuate that people are “crazy”.
This piece therefore discusses what music therapy is and how it works, that is then followed by some benefits that music might have on our brains. Lastly, a few areas in one’s life where music could be used to prevent mental breakdowns will be discussed.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy, simply put, is an actual practice where therapists make use of music in sessions to enhance the mood of individuals. Research evidence has proven that music is such a powerful tool to a point where it can influence the way we think and behave. One of the most significant areas where music has been successfully applied, is with post-traumatic stress disorder patients. Music therapy has somewhat helped them to be more present, and to also experience feelings of happiness, relaxation and decreased depression.
During music therapy sessions, trained therapists are able to bring together music-making strategies, which directly engage the patient. The therapist has total positive regard for the patient and supports them. Music therapy is holistic and it truly helps the patient heal, as they engage through the entire music-making process up until the point where they get to enjoy the product of their work.
What are the benefits that music has on our brains?
In essence, it is not news to anyone that music is very influential towards how we think, behave and interact with others. Music can either have a positive or negative impact on one’s life, and this would highly depend on the kind of music you listen to. As a result, uplifting and inspiring music could significantly aid in healing and on the contrary, for someone dealing with depression, dark music could also somewhat help them feel better. For example; the song Dressed in Black by Sia is a mixture of dark and light in regards to depression, it speaks about how she was found dressed in black hiding way up at the back, and how life had broken her heart and her spirit, she thought life had passed her by, missed her tears and ignored her cries. But then she goes on to say to this person that they quelled her fears, made her laugh and covered her heart in kisses. Now for someone going through depression, this song is hopeful. It is hopeful in the sense that “wow, I am not the only one going through this, someone else has gone through this and they overcame”. Continuously listening to this song instills hope in them, and although it will not happen immediately, it will wire up something inside of their brain. Their thinking will gradually begin to change and so will their behavior and perspective.
Some of the ways in which music can wire up one’s brains and the benefits of such are as follows:
- Music can elevate our levels of motivation and even our mood. When you listen to music you get to genuinely love and enjoy, hence music could be of aid in this regard. You could find that you relate better with people outside of your personal space. A good mental health state of mind is highly intertwined with a positive mood. Sometimes individuals struggle to get through the day or to complete simple daily tasks because of a lack of motivation. In this regard, listening to music can help elevate the mood and level of motivation.
- Listening to music can help individuals relax. This is especially true for those dealing with issues related to mental health such as insomnia and anxiety. Listening to relaxing and soft music can help them relax better. Music can gently help them fall asleep and get the rest they desire.
- Stress relief is another benefit of music in regards with mental health. Depending on the kind of person you may be, soft and gentle music might help release stress. While this may be true, some people might find that loud and rough music is what actually helps them release their stress through screaming and shouting and dancing.
How can music help you manage your mental health before it all gets out of hand?
Generally speaking, music can do so much! You will find that these methods are very intertwined with the benefits of music on our brains, and this is because the impact of music on the brain is a result of these methods. Music can help individuals better express themselves, just like how it can help release stress. Sometimes individuals struggle to find words to express themselves and what better way to do it than through music? Self-confidence and self-esteem are also areas of mental health that are very concerning. Music can in fact help boost one’s self confidence and self-esteem. This is by listening to music that is affirming of one’s image and capabilities. As you sing along, you affirm yourself.
Sometimes we feel very upset and sometimes happy. Whatever it may be that we feel, listening to music that expresses that particular emotion, aids in fully experiencing and releasing it through listening and singing along to that song. For example; feeling highly excited and listening to a song such as Asibe Happy, you will joyously sing along with the aim of indicating that you truly are feeling happy.
Additionally, listening to calming musical instruments or calming music can be highly helpful for mental health, as a form of meditation. This form of music can truly help individuals mediate, relax and just be present.
In summary, music is more than just music. It is more than just listening to a song and “jamming” to it. Music is a tool for healing, it is a tool for enhancing intelligence. Music can stir up thinking and it can change perspectives. It can change how we think and relate with others. Over and above, music is a universal language, that, when used for healing, all can understand.
Cognicare is a private counselling practice established for YOU, to help YOU overcome mental health related challenges through mental health support.