By Mike Jacquart
Some strategies for living well with a mental health diagnosis are fairly obvious and straightforward. Medication. Individual and/or group therapy. For many others, prayer and/or meditation. Others, however, tend to fly under the radar. One of them, exercise, was discussed in an earlier post on this blog. Another overlooked strategy is music.
I am not talking about simply having music on in the background while you’re doing a hundred other things. Rather, I’m referring to making your favorite form of music an integral part of your day. Music can serve as a means of relieving stress, getting your day off to a “peppy” start, or as a form of therapy when you are feeling particularly down. It can take time to figure out which genre, and which specific tunes, can lift you up on the most. More on that in a minute.
First, WHY is music so therapeutic. I wondered about that myself for many years. Even during the darkest periods of my life, listening to music from my favorite rock groups, and attending their concerts, kept me going, lifting me up in ways that no other form of “therapy” ever did. LONG before my diagnosis, music, essentially, served as my “medication.” It was not as useful, mind you, but it sure did help!
Marina London, collaborator of my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness, explained it to me (and to readers). “Music was a source of solace and comfort for you,” she wrote.
Indeed. While I cannot recall a lot of aspects from my everyday life, I have many fond, detailed memories from concerts. These recollections can be so vivid it’s like I saw Fleetwood Mac or Bruce
Springsteen weeks or months, and not decades ago. But why has music been such a personal refuge?
“Listening to music with others at a concert helped you feel a sense of belonging, and camaraderie with
other attendees, thus helping you feel less lonely,” Marina explained.
Bingo! I thought. Since I often felt lonely, sullen, and depressed, that is exactly what music often did to lift my sagging spirits. Today, my mental health diagnosis is not a big part of my life, but it does rear its ugly head from time to time. When it does, listening to favorite songs remains one of my coping strategies. If I’m in a spiritual mood, Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, is a sure pick-me-up.
Many secular songs also change my thoughts from feeling unhappy, sad, even hopeless, to experiencing happiness, thankfulness, and optimism. Sometimes I even picture a slightly different take on the tune. For instance, I love envisioning God singing to me in I’ll Stand by You by the Pretenders. If rockers are more your bag, Hold Your Head Up by Argent is a possibility.
Those are but two examples. I could list many others. Of course, you will need to find your own favorites to help you feel better on a particularly bad day.
The point is, I believe music is an underrated form of therapy – and not only for those with a mental health diagnosis, but anyone really. Music is the universal language that touches and reaches us in ways that nothing else does.
Mental health for men is a series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. (where this post originally appeared). Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness. For more information, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org