7 ways to promote mental wellness as a music fan

How to use your love for music to improve your mental health

Artists like James Blake, Passion Pit, and The Shins’ James Mercer have been making discussions around mental health a priority. As these conversations take the forefront, it’s important to look inward and think about ways you can promote mental wellness in your own everyday life.

As a music fan, there are tons of ways you can use your love for tunes to encourage and improve your mental wellness, from learning to play a new instrument to taking advantage of the support systems in place at music festivals. Working to enhance your mental wellness is a process that you can continuously improve upon, so here are seven ways you can increase your mental wellness as a music fan.

This feature is presented in support of CAMH One Brave Night for Mental Health®.

Listen to more music

Music has an innate tie to our emotions, and according to Harvard University visiting scholar Leonid Perlovsky, music even played a key role in developing a more elaborate mode to communicate emotionality dating back to pre-historic times. In fact, a study from Nature Neuroscience from McGill University revealed that, at peak enjoyment, music releases “mood-enhancing chemical” dopamine in the brain, which plays a key role in producing a “feel-good” state in people. With the release of dopamine, music sends signals to the brain to help express emotions, manage stress, improve memory, increase quality of sleep, and even improve communication. So, listen to the music that you enjoy more often, find new tunes that make you happy, and allow yourself to connect with how your feeling through music.

Learn to play a new instrument

Research shows that playing music can trigger a flood of endorphins, which are the same feel-good hormones that get released after you workout. So, creating music can actually result in the same endorphin-induced thrill as a lengthy run. Learning an instrument will not only give you the means to boost your mood and promote mental wellness by participating in that euphoric experience, but it will also give you a new way to express yourself and how you’re feeling. By learning new ways to communicate your emotions, even through a guitar riff or a couple of piano chords, you can allow yourself to create a more meaningful sense of self-awareness and self-expression, which ultimately improves your mental well-being.

Go to more concerts

Do you ever feel that post-concert rush, that feeling after a good show that puts you on top of the world? Well, according to research conducted by UK music venue O2 and a Goldsmith University lecturer and expert in behavioural science, that feeling is very real. The study reveals that 20 minutes at a concert “can lead to a 21 percent increase in [a] feeling of well-being.” For reference, yoga increases well-being by 10 percent, and dog-walking increases well-being by 7 percent. “Additional scholarly research directly links high levels of well-being with a lifespan increase of nine years pointing to a direct link between gig-going and longevity,” so not only does a concert improve your mental state, but attending a concert every two weeks can potentially extend a music lover’s life expectancy by a whopping nine years.

Use music as a way to meet new people

Having a community that can support you in the ways you need is one of the most important aspects of sustaining your mental wellness. If you have people who can support you when you can’t do so yourself, you’ll always have tools and tactics to rely on when your mental wellness dips. One of the best ways of expanding your community is by meeting new people, and what better way to do that than by connecting with people through music? Not only is music taste a great way to find common interests, but as we’ve already established, music is an effective way to discover and communicate your emotions. So, if you can find people you connect with on a musical level, you’ll have another tool in your bag to communicate with them when you’re mental health isn’t in a positive place.

Take the space you need and be aware of the space around you at shows

Concerts are loads of fun, but the bustle of a live performance can make it pretty easy to lose track of what you might want or need during the time you find yourself at a venue. Make sure to take care of yourself. Get water when you need it; if you’re hungry, eat; and if you need more space to yourself or you need to step out for a moment, give yourself that opportunity so that you can have the most positive experience possible. It can also be easy to take the space around you for granted at a show when everyone is forced into such close proximity, but lack of space can be a huge trigger for people who struggle with a variety of mental illnesses. When you’re at a show and you’re taking up space in the audience, look around you and see who is there with you. Take a look at the space you need, and see if there’s space you can be offering up to someone else who might need it. If we take care of our fellow concert goers at shows, everyone can have a positive, mental wellness boosting experience.

Learn about the importance of mental wellness from some of your favourite artists

Tons of musicians advocate for awareness around mental illness and the importance of mental wellness, not only among music industry professionals, but among fans as well. Alternative musician James Blake once spoke out about the impact of touring on artist’s mental health, stating that, “there is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius. I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create. And I’ve watched it destroy my friends’ creative process, too.” He’s not the only one, as there are plenty of artists constantly promoting mental wellness to their audience, such as The Shins’ James Mercer, who talks about mental health as a theme on Heartworms; Passion Pit, who live streamed his treatment for bipolar disorder to help de-stigmatize talk about mental health; and Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg, who created a fund for Royal Mountain artists’ mental health needs.

Take advantage of the support systems in place for music fans

With festival season fast approaching, it’s important to take care of yourself when you’re out of your regular routine and thrown into the chaos of a music festival for a few days. Plenty of musical events provide a variety of support systems for festival goers. This year, Coachella offered up a sexual harassment safe space alongside the female-owned consulting agency “woman,” which offered up 24-hour access to mental health professionals, who specialize in sexual assault and harassment, at a safe space. Bonnaroo also brought back their women-only camping area, Sheroo. “We want all women and non-binary individuals to feel welcome in the SheRoo space,” Mothership founder Laura Wise explained to Billboard. “We sprinkle the experience with icebreakers and community builders for participants to make new connections.”

Lead photo courtesy of Bruce Mars.

One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness. A friend. Someone you love. Maybe even you.
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