Harmonising music and mental health

Updated: Jan 12

Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post was written by Elle, our Community Education Volunteer, who is a 23-year-old Communications graduate.


Music is a very central part of my life, both for the enjoyment of listening and as a mental health tool. Not only is music fun or relaxing to listen to; it also has many benefits regarding overall mental health and well-being.


Listening to music triggers neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and our brains synchronise with the rhythm of the music we listen to. The type of music we listen to can relax us or make us alert and can even have a positive effect on the body, such as our heart and breath rate, and our blood pressure, simply from the tempo or intensity of the song. Music can be both powerful and empowering, and knowing this made me determined to make music a part of my mental health journey.

I have found that building playlists have helped me to prepare for different emotional waves. Most avid listeners of music do this, sometimes unintentionally, collecting their favourite songs and saving them to a folder so they’re easy to find. This works as a tactic for moving through emotions too.


During times where I have high levels of anxiety, I turn to music with a calming effect that soothes me and keeps me grounded. Instrumentals have been the most effective for me because the combination of lyrics and music can sometimes be overwhelming. Instrumentals give me a chance to focus on the rhythm instead of having to multitask by taking in the words as well. I have a playlist specifically tailored for those moments, and it’s comforting to have those ready to go when I’m feeling anxious. This is especially helpful when I’m in public because it’s a portable tool and I always have my headphones with me.


Along with this, I have upbeat playlists for days where I’m feeling low and uninspired, and nostalgic songs from my childhood when I’m feeling homesick. I’ve created these playlists because they’re connected to the feelings I have most often, however for others, they may experience anger more, or maybe disappointment. It’s a powerful feeling, creating a playlist of songs that resonate with you because it’s personal and proactive. Music is an art that is based on emotions and connection, so it’s unique to each individual person. And the best part is, playlists don’t have to be permanent! You can cycle through new songs that speak to you and phase out those that you don’t feel as strongly about anymore.


My life has revolved around music from a very young age and has been one of my most empowering tools for expressing both my feelings and my personality. I taught myself how to play the piano after I inherited one, and this led to me finding one of my biggest passions, song writing. Sometimes I go through periods in my life where it’s difficult to get a grasp on how I’m feeling. I get frustrated and can’t seem to put any of it into words; until I sit down and write a song.


Then suddenly everything makes sense.


For me, songs are melodic stories, and the emotions I have are a driving force behind what I create. The beautiful part of song writing, or composing music, is that you can turn your emotions and experiences into art. It’s a creative outlet and a somewhat therapeutic process because it begins with confusion and ends with the acknowledgement and understanding of how I’m feeling that day.


I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to make yourself a playlist of songs that bring you joy, or comfort, or peace for moments where you think you may need them. Name the playlist something fun and rearrange the songs in an order that helps you ride out those emotional waves. Make it entirely your own; your personal soundtrack and strategy for navigating life. Music can touch our minds, bodies, and souls, and is a universal and unifying language that we can take with us wherever we go.


My playlist:

Mi Amor - Fernanduh and BearBare

Je te laisserai des mots - Patrick Watson

Quiet Storm - Shierro

Affection - Jinsang

My New Love - Elijah Who


Resources and further reading

https://www.audacy.com/im-listening/tips-on-how-to-create-your-own-custom-mental-health-playlist

https://www.verywellmind.com/surprising-psychological-benefits-of-music-4126866

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-music#cognitive-benefits

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