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Exploring the effects of Music on Mental Health…

“A song a day keeps the doctor away”

Music - it’s a universally understood language. It connects people. It provides the memorable soundtrack to your best days and that light of hope, or hand of solace, to your darkest.

Countless studies over the years have proved that playing and/or listening to music has multiple positive effects on a human beings mental health such as: reducing anxiety/stress, boosting morale when exercising, improving memory - the list goes on for quite a while!

Listening, writing or playing music is often a therapeutically invigorating and valuable experience for a lot of people. Let’s explore that…

The Cambridge Dictionary defines Music as "a pattern of sounds made by musical instruments, voices, or computers, or a combination of these, intended to give pleasure to people listening to it”.

At its core, music is free from any barriers that may usually divide us all. It simply serves the purpose of providing enjoyment, or comfort, and I think that’s a truly powerful thing.

Originally posted to Nature Neuroscience back in 2011, researchers from McGill University in Montreal (Canada) found that a chemical called dopamine is released at peak times of music listening pleasure.

The same thing happens when you have your favourite meal, finally buy that car you’ve been saving years for or have really enjoyable sex.

The beauty of it all when it comes to music? The possibilities are endless.

Not only are there an ever-growing number of musical genres, but there are also thousands upon thousands of musical instruments in the world as well as an array of performance/production techniques that can be used.

A sound for everyone.

There are no right or wrong ways of making or enjoying music.

At the heart of any music is a human being. Somebody who’s found it within themselves to craft what they hear in their head into reality. Sure, there is a lot of defined music theory already - solidified ways of doing things.

But rules are very often broken in music. Some of the most groundbreaking artists from across the world have used that defiance of the norm within their songwriting to create the uniquely distinguishable sound that has made them so successful.

The truth is that most listeners do not care for the technicalities of it all - if it sounds great, then it sounds great.

That’s all that matters, right?

With the world currently growing more and more aware of mental health issues, many top musicians have used their platform to speak out on the cause…

Due to the likes of internet trolls and comment section bullies, we live in an age where mental health problems are growing worse. Love is however fighting back, with music being used as a powerful tool in doing so.

The likes of Adele, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, Rick Springfield, Ellie Goulding, Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber (but to name a few) have all spoken out on the important issue over the past few years, with many sharing their own personal experiences.

Sure, with a solid music career and no financial worries behind you life may become slightly easier, but nobody is immune - no matter how rich, famous or powerful they may be.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Many musicians channel that raw feeling into their music, which is often then interpreted differently by their listeners - each relating to it in their own way.

Despite this difference in interpretation, every listener becomes somehow connected through the music. This can often instil a feeling of comfort and community - a sense that even in our darkest hours when we’re all on our own, we are never alone in how we feel.

And it’s not just the lyrics which can spark that emotional connection between a writer, fan and song. It’s also the music itself. The progression of chords, that added note to make it sound darker, the rhythm heartbeat pulsating throughout — for example.

I’ll never forget a piece of advice I once received from a friend’s Dad, Mac, about how music can affect the body, mind and soul. He’d had a long and esteemed career as a drummer by this point - having toured the world and played with some of the biggest artists.

He explained to me how important it is to actually think of the human body when making music…

How will it react? In which way will it move?

Do you want people jumping, adrenaline pumping, or do you want your listener to sit back and enter a deep state of relaxation?

A normal resting heart rate for adults usually ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). If you play a drum beat to a time below that, say 50bpm, it will likely sound slower and chilled out.

Whereas if you play a drum beat to a time above the normal resting heart rate, for example 180bpm, it will often feel fast paced and energetically charged!

Lyrics play a huge part in portraying meaning and influence within a song but so too does the instrumentally played music itself — the melodies and rhythms — the feel of each hit, each strum...

When discussing mental health, the focus is often put solely on the negative aspects - for example anxiety/stress/depression, however equally valuable to the conversation is talking about the positive sides of mental health.

About all of the things we can do to make our lives happier - to bring peace and comfort when we’re feeling low.

Despite it being already widely believed, increasingly more evidence suggests how music is an incredibly effective way of healing the mind and soothing the soul.

Happy music often encourages positive emotion, whilst sadder music can provide a sense of consolation or togetherness. I think that’s fricken awesome, right?!

And so the next time you’re feeling down, why not put on your favourite song, or find something new to add to your playlists?

Whoever said there’s anything wrong with shutting the curtains, grabbing the nearest hairbrush microphone and jamming the frick out in your PJs every once in a while?

You know what they say,“a song a day keeps the doctor away”. Okay, nobody actually says that, but perhaps it just may be true after all?

Written by Marty Jackson

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