Music is a huge part of us as a species, it’s something we have been making and listening to music throughout history. Our brain is wired to be able to distinguish music from noise, so that we can respond by humming, or clapping, or dancing - so, we know that we like it, but what impact does it have on our mental health?
Research suggests that simply listening to music can elevate your mood, aids relaxation and increases the efficiency of your brain processing - and that’s the same for songwriting too. In fact, music therapists use it to help treat a wide range of conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Songwriting is very personal, it allows you to express your own emotions, whether you perform it to an audience or whether you write for yourself, either way the benefits of songwriting, making music or listening to music are great for mental well being.
Having spoken to a handful of songwriting postgraduates about their experiences, the general census is the same - that is feels like either a form of therapy, or if you use while going through a challenging time in your life, it can be very cathartic. The process itself differs with each individual - some believe it helps to write songs as they experience the ups and downs of life - whereas some find it works best as more of a reflection on a past experience.
Either way, all believe that songwriting, making music or just listening to music has a direct link to our mental wellbeing - for instance, many of us find ourselves listening to sad songs when we’re sad, or happy songs when we’re happy - is this because it makes us feel like the songwriter or artist are going through the same thing as us?
Feeling alone is a top symptom of any mental illness and is one of the reasons why many of us don’t reach out for help when we need it - we feel like we are the only ones going through it - when in fact, you could be surrounded by people going through the same thing.
Perhaps that’s why songwriting can have such a positive impact, to either the listener or the writer - the listener, so that they don’t feel so alone and can relate to the lyrics, and the writer, so that they can tell their own story - as much as song writing is like art, people will always interpret it differently, but the real sweet spot is when a song really resonates with a listener and they know exactly what the song writer was going through.
So, now we know that listening or making music is good for you - turn on that radio, click play on that Spotify playlist - this is a type of escapism we can get on board with.
A massive thank you to Steven Kenward, Lily Dooner and Eve Murphy for sharing your thoughts on the matter with me!