Like individuals, music is also dynamic. It can be interpreted in various ways, with unique links back to memories, a time of happiness or sadness. But how can music help support someone with mental health?
Music can be identified as a universal language utilising sound as its form of communication and expression.
Music can help us express emotions that are hard to verbalise - Psychology Today
Our heart and our brain communicate in a two-way conversation, constantly sending signals to and from each other. Our heart anticipates and controls the emotions that we feel, whilst the brain receives and sends signals and responses to the rest of our body. So it isn't surprising to think that when our heartbeat syncs to the music that we listen to, that our body and our emotions will respond appropriately. For example, if you listen to a slow, sad song, our heartbeat will slow down, sending a message to the brain that something sad is happening. Likewise, if we listen to fast-paced, upbeat music, we begin to invoke feelings of excitement and energy (1).
If you have concerns or worries for someone and their mental health, and they are struggling to open up to you, why not ask them to think of / play a song which resonates with how they are feeling? This can be a very useful tool without directly asking them a question about their mental health.
What is Music Therapy?
Music Therapy is a scientifically proven method in which the American Music Therapy Association has defined as:
The clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship.
Music therapy helps those who find it difficult to communicate, express their emotions in a safe and controlled environment. This could be through singing, moving, dancing or listening to music and has shown to demonstrate improvements in both psychological and physical wellbeing. Music therapy is particularly useful when considering different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds as music, and the coinciding therapy, can be tailored to reflect individual identity.
Music can play a part in non-professional recovery methods too.
I can only draw from my own experience, but I find that there are particular songs that human beings can draw a specific relation to, dependent on their experiences. Conversations about mental health and mental illness are slowly becoming more standardised and accepted, with popular celebrities and public figures speaking out about their experiences, with some translating into song.
When I am having a particularly bad day, I have a playlist of songs that help reground me, and help me to recognise what I am experiencing is not unusual or different, and that everything will be ok.
This song resonates with me because it reminds