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Music, & the correlation with mental health

How many times have you repeatedly played a song when you are feeling a certain emotion?

The first thing I do in the morning, is put the radio on. No pressure of what song to choose, or the social pressure of picking a ‘cool’ song to put on at a gathering of any sort. You are guaranteed to hear a kind of upbeat, cheesy, melodic pop tune to get your brain in gear for the day. If you are a music nut like me, your priorities might include organising a deep archive of Spotify playlists in numbers and codes that only we can decipher. It’s become a part of my lifestyle, and a coping mechanism of my own. A time-consuming hobby that I couldn’t live without.

It’s not just listening to the music but creating and being involved in the production can also encourage positive impact on your wellbeing, this is the practice of music therapy. “Music therapy involves using a person’s responses and connections to music to encourage positive changes in mood and overall well-being. Music therapy can include creating music with instruments of all types, singing, moving to music, or just listening to it.” What it comes down to is expression and using music as a tool to do exactly that. In the words of NWA, “Express Yourself”!! Singing along in a bar, in your room, making up dance routines to show your family (against their will) and pretending you were in a dramatic scene of a music video on MTV when you were 14 - We have all been there. A song that starts to play and instinctively reminds you of a friend, a family member, a holiday, a night out, or an ex that has tainted your favourite track for what feels like the rest of your life. Either way, a wave of emotions come over you. Positive and negative, and we must consider that it is potentially something that can remind us of bad periods in time, and keep us stuck in a negative, angry state of mind.

The meaning goes deeper for a lot of us, beyond the folders and digital chaos. It can be a daily balance for your mind, and research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. It is the rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us and reduces impulsivity. We manipulate music to match or alter our mood.

The past year has been testing for everyone and made more difficult with the cancellation of hundreds of festivals and music events. I struggled with this along with many, festivals are something we plan for years in advance, and look forward to for months prior.

A defining factor being that these events are all massively orientated around being together and being social. Music is a form of social ritual, it can be something so personal to you, and engaging for a mass crowd of people.

I urge anyone, and everyone to read this report on music therapy, it gave me a massive insight into the scientific reasoning behind the theory. A more in-depth explanation of all the aspects of music — including pitch, tempo, and melody — and how they are processed by different areas of the brain.

Medically reviewed by Alex Klein, PsyD

Written by Lois Zoppi on November 3, 2020

Alex Berry, Cohort 30, Artworker at Havas Lynx


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