‘Lose yourself in the music,’ said Eminem. And I did. Quite often and quite deeply.
To the point where music wasn't just entertainment for me but it slowly became a crutch and often even a hype-man.
Regretting a major choice? ‘Make peace with your mistakes and they’ll turn to gold’ I’d murmur under my breath.
‘The sun will rise and we try again.’
‘Feelings come, feelings go.’
‘Less morose, more present.’
And they always helped.
Tyler Joseph, the lead vocalist of the band Twenty One Pilots who has always been open about his struggles with mental health sang, “If it wasn’t for this music, I don't know how I would have fought this.”
And listening to those words, I wonder the same. Maybe I would have, maybe not. But I can’t deny that it has helped.
I’m not alone in this though. A lot of people, particularly of the younger variety turn to music for comfort, for empathy....for their feelings to be validated.
FIT Spoke to Dr Kamna Chhibber, who heads the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Science at Fortis Hospital about this phenomenon and she had this to say:
“Young adults have a lot going on in their heads and bodies and listening to music where the lyrics articulate their thoughts and struggles can be very comforting even to the point of pulling them out of dangerously self-destructive thoughts.”
So why is it that we look to the vocals of a stranger set to tunes for the comfort one would expect to get from the people in our immediate surroundings? And why do so many people depend on music to council themselves through their hardships?
Why is ‘this band saved my life’ such a popular phrase associated with heavy metal and alternative rock genres (traditionally thought to be angry and violent and having a negative impact on adolescents)?
Loudspeaker For Your Troubles
According to Dr Kamna Chhibber,
“When it comes to music such as rock or heavy metal, it isn’t so much counselling as it is a means of expression.”
“Young adults often struggle with finding the right vocabulary to put their feelings into thoughts and their thoughts into words. These genres of music help them find the words, they find a connection to their emotional states, both verbal and rhythmic.”
She adds, “Apart from the relatability of the lyrics, the rhythm and its intensity often mirror the turmoil within them.”
Jashan, a 23-year-old student of international relations says:
“When my head if heavy with a mess of thoughts, listening to the right music instantly detangles them. Its cathartic the way journaling is.”'Feeling Understood is Nothing Short of Ethereal'
In a world where people are moving farther and farther away from each other, and into bubbles of their own, and LAN connections are stronger than human ones, it's easy to feel alienated, lonely and like your troubles are unique to you, the weight of which can be quite crushing.
But then, one day, you’re on the bus or in bed or walking down the street and a song comes on, something you’ve never heard before and suddenly it's like a beacon of light is shining down upon you.
Someone is singing back to you exactly what you’re feeling or exactly what you needed to hear to get on with your day and all of a sudden it feels like everything could be okay.
“I remember the first time I heard The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel,” says Shivani, a Student of psychology, who has long been using music as a way to ‘dealing with real life’.
Shivani, Student of Psychology“For the first time I felt like the alienation I felt wasn’t just me but that there had probably existed scores of people across time that had felt this way too.”
“The experience I have listening to this song is nothing short of ethereal, it transports me away someplace where the world around me makes more sense and its comfort exists everywhere, be in a sea of people on a crowded train or alone in my room.”
It isn’t just angsty teens, even psychologists and councillors see the potential of music. Music therapy is an emerging area of study.
Dr Chhibber talks about how she uses music as an aid while dealing with specific cases.
“While dealing with (especially) an adolescent, who is struggling with concentration and attention, recommending picking up an instrument and practicing it daily could help. This is a well-researched method.”
She adds, “Association may also be employed for helping someone cope with severe anxiety. For someone like that, I would recommend they listen to classical music in the mornings with some deep breathing regularly to create an association between classical music and calmness. This way whenever they listen to classical music, they would feel calmer.”
Dr Naznin Chimtthanawala, Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist aggrees, saying,
“The vibrations and frequency of some music can be very soothing and can help calm anxiety and pain.”
Not a Substitute for Therapy
However, music in itself should not be considered a substitute for therapy.
Although music helps elevate your mood, calms you and cheers you up by stimulating the release of endorphins, it wouldn’t help completely overcome long term mental health issues.
“For any lasting effect,” says Dr Chimthanawala, “ there needs to be a change in the quality and processing of thoughts and therefore music can only help when coupled with psychotherapy for a more stabler outcome.”
Dr Chhibber agrees, “It doesn’t take the place of therapy or counselling but has a separate space for itself.”
Dr Kamna Chibbar“Music cannot be used exclusively to treat mental health issues but has been proven to be effective as a supplementary aid.”
So next time you're feeling low or overwhelmed, put on those headphones, find that one song you need, turn up the volume and feel the music speak to you.
(India, and the Capital especially, has been in an air pollution crisis. How has the hazardous air #pollution impacted you? Write down your #PollutionKaSolution and send it to us at FIT@thequint.com. )
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