Music is More Than a Form of Art; it’s a Form of Treatment
The legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson, transformed the face of pop music and culture. While he broke international sales records repeatedly with his unique and infectious songs, he is arguably best remembered for his ability to bring people together. His voice, songs and dance moves united people of all ages, nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Michael Jackson’s musical contributions are proof of the universal transformative and healing powers of music.
In general, music often plays a major role in shaping cultural groups. It can help define a culture’s values, identities and contexts, as well as provide a platform for political expression. For example, in Native American culture, music is one of the many characteristics that distinguish one tribe from another. It also plays a significant role in passing on rituals from one generation to the next. In African American culture, music has historically served as a form of protest. Most cultural groups have traditions and customs that are revolved around music.
In addition to influencing society, music also has a large affect on the individual. Evidence from the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy and the Journal of Clinical Nursing suggests that music can help improve mental health by reducing certain symptoms of depression and by making people feel more in control. It can reduce stress, help us get better sleep and improve our mood. Some scientists argue that listening to a song we love acts on the pleasure center of our brain by releasing dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good. Many of us have personally experienced this—listening to a great song that somehow seems to magically transform our mood. It can help us get started with the day or keep us motivated during our workout routine.
Considering the link between culture, mental health and music, it may be useful to incorporate music into our everyday routines to help regulate our emotions. Masi Sithole from NAMI Washington D.C. describes how music plays an important role in his recovery in this short clip: “I love music. I play several instruments. As far as therapy for me, music is one of the most therapeutic things that I have come across.”
Just as music can influence our mental wellness, so can the artists who create it. Artists are among the many individuals impacted by mental health, and many of them are fighting to raise awareness about it. In result, there is a large wave of mental health activism happening in the music industry. For example, 22 year-old actress and singer, Demi Lovato, has been very vocal about her bipolar and eating disorder diagnoses. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and speaks publicly about her issues with addiction and living with mental health conditions. Demi has said, “I realized that bipolar disorder may be a part of my life, but it isn’t who I am.” Through her music and her mental health advocacy, including a large involvement in the mental health organization, Be Vocal, she is showing us how people with mental health conditions can have a positive impact on many lives.
The art of music acts as a form of treatment for those 1 in 5 people living with mental illness. Here are my top 10 songs that I listen to when I’m in need of being connected, grounded, moved and healed.
Natalia’s Top 10 Songs to Listen to When Having a Rough Day:
#1. Michelle Williams-Say Yes ft. Beyonce, Kelly Rowland
#2. All Hands on Deck by Tinashe
#3. Bailando-Enrique Iglesias
#4. Cheerleader by OMI
#5. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
#6. Budapest by George Ezra
#7. Sugar by Maroon 5
#8. Closer to my Dreams by Goapele
#9. W.A.Y.S by Jhene Aiko
#10. What’s Going on by 4 Non Blondes