How Music Helps My Mental Health

For as long as I can remember, music has always been part of my life. I have always felt a connection to music, despite having no talent of my own. Growing up, there was always a different CD in the car to sing along to. I used to “perform” karaoke to my teddies in my bedroom. As I got older, I was going to gigs nearly every week, constantly listening to up and coming bands, or listening to my favourite artists for the 1000th time. I always loved the idea of singing and performing, but alas, I am not gifted and resemble more of a strangled-cat-meets-child-on-helium kinda vibe.

Flatlay style image of a guitar, mug of tea, notepads and grey socks witb text overlay "how music helps my mental health"

People often write about their struggles with anxiety or depression after they have found some sort of lifeline and come out of the other side. They often reflect upon a darker time while standing in the warm glow of a newfound light, adding a new perspective borne from looking deeper into themselves and self-healing. Not me.

I have suffered from anxiety for most of my life, although I didn’t realise or seek help for it until I was around 22. When I was a teenager, my mental health went through the wars a bit as I was experiencing a lot of negativity in my life. It was then that I discovered the quote “Music speaks when words fail.” Music did speak to me when I couldn’t express into words how I felt.

I used to describe my anxiety to people as being similar to the buzzing of a refrigerator: it was always there, but it always blended into the background of life and I only noticed it when I stopped to listen for it. On occasion, my anxiety would become “loud” and overpowering, but it didn’t affect my life regularly until I began university.

As a rational and logical person, I find it incredibly uncomfortable to know that I am letting myself be governed by irrational fears. It is the strangest feeling to recognise in yourself that you are being irrational and then watch as you complete the irrational act anyway. The sense of powerlessness is extremely discomforting. But this is where music comes in for me.

How listening to music helps my mental health

Music for me is a great form of escapism. If I’m in a good mood, it elevates and supports that. But if I’m feeling a bit low or anxious or paranoid about something, music is a great way of taking my mind off things. It gives me something to focus my mind on to stop it wandering. Personally, I’ve found that different types of music work better for different moods and even different times of the day. For example, if I’m anxious and panicky in the afternoon, I find that upbeat pop music helps to relax me. Whereas if I feel like this in the evening or whilst in bed, listening to piano and instrumental music works far better.

Music also helps my mental health is less direct ways. Music provides a relatively easy connection to others – something that I can have trouble with and worry a lot about. When I find someone with the same taste in music as me, I instantly feel more relaxed and comfortable around them because I know that I have something in common with them. It calms me that I know I have a topic of conversation to talk about and removes some of the social anxiety that I experience.

It’s not just about listening to music…

Since moving back home, I’ve joined a pop / rock choir. Despite not being able to sing in the slightest, I’ve always loved it and for someone who is quite shy, I really enjoy being on a stage. The adrenaline and excitement of performing weirdly does wonders for my anxiety – yes I’m nervous beforehand, but in a controlled manner. And afterwards, man I feel so empowered and proud of myself for what I have achieved.

As part of the choir, I feel united to the rest of the group and I feel part of something. It’s hard to describe but I feel I have value and worth and I don’t feel alone. We always say we’re a choir family and although we aren’t all super close friends or anything, I know I can rely on the choir and the people involved with it to lift my spirits.

group of men and women stood in front of a bandstand in summer, all smiling

Going to concerts and gigs with anxiety

Again, like performing, I weirdly don’t get too anxious about concerts even though I don’t do well in rooms of crowded people. I think because I know that everyone is there for the same reason and I’ll have that connection to them, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

Going to gigs is one of my absolute favourite things to do and it brings me so much joy. Being fully immersed in this otherworldly experience where nothing else matters except what is happening in that room is something I will never get over and I hope to enjoy throughout my life.

Concerts and gigs are also a great opportunity for a shared experience with family or friends. It encourages you and gives you purpose for leaving the house and whilst it may involve other anxious experiences such as travelling, I always find these much easier to deal with when I know there is a ‘good thing’ at the end of it. It helps it all feel a bit more manageable when there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Does music help your mental health in similar ways, or do you have other coping strategies?

 

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Comments

  1. ThatAutisticFitChick says

    Music had always been a lifeline for me, both listening to and finding meaning in the lyrics and ways of describing what is going on in my brain, and playing music and singing. I think playing brass activates the vagus nerve as well as singing does and it calms the brain-gut connection. Like humming or chanting when meditating.

    • whatabigailsays says

      I’m sorry to hear that. It definitely affects people in different ways and sometimes if it’s really crowded I do start to panic, but as soon as the music starts I forget about everyone else!

  2. Chloe says

    I find that music helps me too! I dance and find that music is such an escapism, it can change your mood make you feel empowered and lift your day. If you can connect with music it’s the most amazing thing. Loved reading this x

  3. Elen Mai says

    I completely agree with what you’ve said! Music has always provided me with a method of escape on bad days. xx
    El // Welsh Wanderer

  4. Rachel | The Secret Life says

    Great read! My daughter is just entering the teen years, and struggles with anxiety. Music is her release! I love it! I have zero musical skills, but watching her sing and preform is my favorite thing ever. It’s like through music she is able to just be her, this confident strong almost woman that can do anything she attempts. It is such an amazing release.

  5. Rachel Wuest says

    Although I have no musical talent, I too enjoy gigs a lot! I’ve never had anxiety over going to gigs alone, but music has certainly helped me make friends and find a common ground for an ice breaker. I met my now best friend when he complimented my band shirt and the rest is history! x

    Rachel || http://anotherstationanothermile.com

  6. Aimee says

    What a lovely post and I completely agree with every word you put. I went to a spice girls concert at the weekend and it was so weird to not feel anxious and so carefree and you worded it perfectly with saying about how you don’t get nervous to them because people are there for the same reason. I was the exact same and as soon as they come on stage and started performing all my nerves went and I forgot about everything, it was the best feeling! The only worry I now have is the guiltiness I felt for being so happy because I’m not used to it, so very unfair and the sad reality of mental health. But thank you for writing this post and I hope you are well 💗🙏🏼

  7. Essie says

    I’m soo picky about the music I listen to – it has to fit my mood exactly or I get really irritated! I also have some anxiety issues, and I find that the nerves of performance really help me too. It feels like my nervousness is *for* something rather than unexplainable like usual, and I know there’ll be an end to it which I find calming.

  8. Allthingsalexx says

    Wow what an amazing story and message this post holds, it is so important and amazing that you’ve found something that you love and that can move you away from the bad feelings even for a couple of minutes. I used to be part of a big band and I play guitar and I agree that it does relax you and the concentration and passion you give to it can really take you to another place completely which is remarkable. Well done you for finding your passion and following it!
    Alex xx
    http://allthingsalexx.wordpress.com/

  9. Nyxie says

    Love this post! Music can make or break my mental health. If it’s sad, lonely music it makes me feel worse, if its upbeat I’m in the best mood ever, despite my previous feelings of the day! I used to love music but lately I’ve been more into spoken word and podcasts.

  10. Dax Munro says

    Great post. 🙂

    I find myself listening to music this very minute. I’ve always found rock or punk pop type music to help me. There’s this teenage angst still living within my 25 year old self, which reacts well to emotional and edgy music. 🙂 x

  11. Lanae Bond says

    Music is a form of expression and escapism. I often use music to help me with anxiety and stress. Through music, I am able to express my thoughts and feelings when I normally could not.

  12. Shelby says

    Completely agree! Music has always been the main source of my happiness and controlling my anxieties. It also helped me through a tough time in school when I was continuously bullied – I have music to thank for getting me through my school years and hard times today!

  13. Samantha says

    Music has helped me as well with my depression and anxiety. I haven’t tried song writing, but, writing poetry helps me get my feelings out and make sense of them. Thank you for sharing! Great post

  14. Sophie says

    I find music helps with my mental health too. Especially when I have to go out by myself into busy places. Sometimes the sounds of people around me can get a bit much and having the bands I love in my ears is kind of reassuring.

    Sophie | Sophie’s Spot

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