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Story and art by Abby Simon

The Bright Side of Now: Music and its Power on Mental Health

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Media today is filled with sad stories about the negative influence of social media, COVID-19 isolation and other modern ills on teenage mental health.  Rather than focusing on these negative influences, it is helpful to recognize that there are areas of the teenage experience that positively affect teenagers and their mental health.

One of these areas is music. Music is everywhere, it is such a regular part of life that people tend to look past its power. Music doesn’t just affect mental health; it leaves a mark on most parts of life. The effects are not only seen in the social parts of life, but also on mental and psychological aspects. 

Socially, music has had a long history of bringing people together and influencing change. A 2016 Greater Good Magazine article titled, “How Music Bonds Us Together,” states: “Listening to music and singing together has been shown in several studies to directly impact neurochemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connection.” Music goes into the brain and interacts with neurochemicals, resulting in the production of distinct emotions. As music works to boost the sense of connectivity, mental health is benefited from the feeling.

Mairen Brown, a student at North Springs High School, says “I feel the feeling of connectivity and togetherness is necessary in my day-to-day life.” Ansley Bokath, another North Springs student adds, “Connecting with someone lessens the feelings of sadness or anxiety, it’s almost like a safe feeling”.

Ergo, music’s joint association with the brain to produce feelings of connection and closeness can have a larger effect on mental health than first assumed. Boosting these emotions can lead to increased levels of happiness, lower stress levels, and improved feelings of self-love.

Music has also opened the gate for people to speak up about mental health. Many musicians use serious topics, like mental health, as inspiration for their songwriting. These may be songs emphasizing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Some chose to focus on the healing process, or the parts that can be glorified. These songs are not specific to one genre, they can be seen with all artists in all genres. For example, the song “Help!” by The Beatles, focuses on the growing anxiety band member John Lennon felt because of the band’s fame. Lennon used his platform to speak up about a relevant issue in his life and reach out for help. 

Many popular songs through the years have always spoken on relevant topics of the time. Some of your favorite songs may have deeper meanings and articulate lyrics than thought. “Many of my favorite songs have deep lyrics that I feel relate to relevant issues,” says Bokath.

Brown adds, “Many of my favorite artists produce songs that speak out on recent issues. Topics relating to mental health are very prevalent in these musicians’ lyrics, especially H.E.R., J. Cole, Brent Faiyaz, and more”.

People feel less alone when they see that their favorite musicians go through the same things as them. The idea of connectivity is shown again, as more and more artists share their perspectives.

The feeling of connectivity appears often when speaking on music and mental health. Music works together with the brain to produce feelings of connection. This power may be overlooked, but connectedness can bring many positives to mental health. Whether it is increasing happiness or decreasing stress levels, something as small as a song can implement large improvements on mental health. Music has a power like no other and will continue to change the world.

Abby Simon, 14, is a student at North Springs High School. She has a strong love for music, and does her best to be aware of its direct impact on mental health.

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