In honour of Mental Health Week I wanted to talk about how music can be so incredibly beneficial to those feeling not their selves, a little off or a little lost. In my many years of playing piano and my not as many (but still a fair few) years of teaching I've personally seen and experienced the positive side-effects of making music.
As a musician, I have found that there is no better emotional release than sitting down at my piano and getting out whatever I'm feeling - generally very very loudly. Luckily I have forgiving housemates who understand, being musicians themselves. What I play isn't necessarily important, or a reflection of my mood (though sometimes it is) and I may choose to vent via some melancholy Coldplay or Yann Tiersen, some angry, bass-heavy improv or perhaps some Beethoven - who being deaf, mad and a genius was the original venter of frustration through music.
Now here you may feel the need to point out that I've played piano for a long time and therefore it's somewhat easy for me to play what I feel and you're not wrong. But that doesn't mean you need to have played your instrument for 20 years for it to help you to feel better when you're not feeling too crash hot. I've had students come in with various worries: a fight with their partner, problems at work, school/uni stress and after a little chat it makes me so happy to watch those problems melt away for half an hour whilst they're concentrating on a new piece, or getting lost in an old favourite.
Another benefit is the sense of achievement you feel when finishing that extra line, that second page or even the whole song if you feel so inclined. Sometimes life can throw a whole bunch of bad things your way, and even simple tasks can feel impossible and it's at times like these that I push my students to finish or perfect even just one line of music so they can feel the elation and pride that comes with any burst of creativity.
What is perhaps my favourite aspect of music is how it can be just for you. When you're feeling low you can generally have a chat with friends, family and dare I say friendly neighbourhood music teachers to make you feel a little better, but occasionally you may not feel like talking to anyone and it's at this point that music steps up. It's like having a conversation with yourself that can either be a distraction or an emotional focus and it's entirely up to you and I love that. Additionally, feeling bad doesn't always happen at convenient hours. Occasionally that free-floating anxiety can wake you up in the middle of the night, or worse the very very early morning and if you're not comfortable calling someone at that hour I guarantee your piano/keyboard won't complain.
There is never a wrong time for music, never a wrong time to learn, never a wrong time to want to feel a bit better about yourself. If music is something you've ever thought you might be interested in, or if you think it might be a beneficial outlet for you - look into it! Below is a clip of me playing one of my all time favourite songs by Yann Tiersen, it's a little melancholy but it never fails to relax me.