Music as Therapy

by | Oct 1, 2017

I believe it was Macklemore who said, “Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heartstrings. It acts as medicine.” If you’re any kind of music nut like me, then you understand this quote on a much deeper level than maybe most people. Yes, I enjoy music and I critique and analyze it, and I’ve also used it as the soundtrack to a countless number of occasions throughout my life. Whether on a road trip or short car rides, at parties or bars, on my commute to and from work or alone in my bedroom making mix CDs and playlists, music has been one constant in my life. In fact, I would say that music has been my lifeline for a very long time now. Unlike most people, music doesn’t let me down. With that being said, is it really any wonder why music wouldn’t be used as a form of therapy? Yes, music has the ability to make people happy and put them in a better mood, but more importantly and to the right person, music has the ability to evoke certain emotions within us.

Berthold Auerbach said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” and Leonard Bernstein said, “Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more with these two statements. I’ve found in my experience, that when I’m sad or just mentally not in a good place, the one thing I really want (other than a pint of ice cream) is my comfort music. And when I’ve struggled to find the right words to explain how I was feeling, I’ve always been able to find songs that perfectly said what I wasn’t able to. Music has always been my safe spot to land and my favorite companion. So, it only made sense and felt natural to compile a playlist of songs to turn to when I’m feeling lost, defeated, deflated, alone, or all of the above. These are songs that, while they don’t make me want to get up and dance or bop my head along to them, I genuinely find comfort in either because they inspire me (not in an “Eye of the Tiger” way) and inflate my spirit or they’re lyrically mirroring my emotions.

Another quote I’ve always found truth in is the one that goes something along the lines of, “When you’re happy you hear the music, but when you’re sad you understand the lyrics.” While I’ve always been more of a lyrics person in general myself, I have absolutely found myself more attuned to a song’s lyrics when I’m mentally struggling. I think it’s the feeling of knowing we’re not alone when we listen to a song’s lyrics. Of course, in the back of our minds we know we’re not really alone in these feelings because everyone has problems. Deep down we know that considering the problems some people have, the rest of us should really just try to focus on the positive and be glad we haven’t lost all of our belongings in a mass flood, that we aren’t watching someone we love die of or suffering ourselves from some awful disease, or that we haven’t lost any of our limbs. Believe me, I hear you loud and clear on that.

What does that mean for the rest of us, though? Yes, we’re without question blessed, lucky, and fortunate people, but does that make us any less troubled? I mean, we are human. We are allowed to have bad days and periods of depression. We’re allowed to have what some may refer to as trivial problems. The catch, though, is that we’re not supposed to obsess over them, we’re not really supposed to talk about them, and we’re not supposed to let them get the best of us or control our lives. At least, that’s how most of society will have you feeling, anyway. So now, not only are you depressed or struggling internally, but you also feel guilty for feeling that way. No one ever wants to feel sad and alone, but sometimes we just can’t help it because our emotions can get the best of us. So, we end up walking around, pretending everything’s fine, when really, we’re screaming on the inside.

We’re screaming because we can’t hold it all in much longer and we want someone to care enough to ask us how we’re doing, if we’re really okay, and actually mean it. That’s the tricky part, though, you see. Just because someone asks how we are or offers to listen, doesn’t mean they care on a deep level. So why would we want to bother someone who doesn’t care or have time to invest in someone else’s issues? We don’t. How many times have we all seen that quote floating around social media about people who say, “Hi, how are you?” just to be polite, but are secretly hoping you don’t actually go into detail about your life at the moment? It’s because people do not want to be bothered.

It’s as if the art of meaningful, heart to heart conversations has lost all significance in today’s society. I’m not saying every time you see someone you need to have a life changing conversation with them, but would it kill people to try a little more than, “Hey, how’s it going?” and “What’s new?” Sometimes a long conversation and a good laugh are exactly what a person needs to feel better. We’re all so caught up in our own worlds, though, that we don’t notice when someone we’ve labeled friend or family is secretly in need of a ear and a heart that truly cares. And hey, I get it. Life gets hectic and things happen and we forget to check in on people. But isn’t it funny how people make time for people they want to spend time with? And people will claim to have forgotten to text you back or to have been too busy to look at their messages, but those are the same people who are practically always on their phones!

I find it fascinating to see how we as humans have often forgot how to act like humans. We’re all guilty of it, too. Every last one of us. Someone ignores us or treats us less than we’d hoped, so we carry that on to someone else and the cycle continues. So, I ask, is it any wonder there are so many people suffering mentally? Their problems may have originated as one thing, but being ignored and feeling like there’s no one to talk to certainly only make it worse. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying every time someone looks sad we need to act like the world is ending and stop everything. I’ll be the first to tell you, especially with millennials, there are some people who love to be miserable, love to accuse the whole world of being against them, and use the issue of mental health as a crutch because they’re just that kind of person.

Like with anything else, there are always going to be some bad apples and those who like to cry wolf or be over dramatic. These are the people who make mental health look like a joke. Meanwhile, there are people who genuinely just need someone to talk to. Some people end up seeking a professional, and maybe that’s for the best. But sometimes isn’t it more comforting to talk to someone you know? And this brings me back to music. We may not know the artists personally, but listening to their songs allows us to relate them on an emotional level. The pain and feelings of self-doubt they’re singing about are relatable because we the listeners are experiencing or have experienced something similar. We connect with the lyrics for a reason, and because of this I wholeheartedly believe that music can be one of the best and most successful forms of therapy.

And when you find those songs you really connect to, no matter what stage of your life you’re at, you hold onto them. They become so important to you that at some point they just become your comfort songs. You know that when you’re mentally not in the best place, you can turn to those songs and they’ll still be there for you. They’re the best friend you wish you had or wish was still around. But unlike people, your music won’t forget about you or abandon you, and this is what you can take comfort in. So now, I want to share with you some of my personal comfort songs. When I need a reminder I’m not alone in my emotions and I need reassurance I’m not crazy, I listen to these songs and try to remind myself it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling because I’m only human. When I feel like I have no one to talk to, I turn to these songs.

Lifehouse – Somewhere In Between

Rascal Flatts – Stand

NeedToBreathe – These Hard Times

Matt Kearney – Let It Rain

Matchbox Twenty – Unwell

Matt Nathanson – Car Crash

High Valley – Don’t Stop

Gary Allan – Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)

Marty Casey – Brand New Fire

Matchbox Twenty – Long Day

Eli Young Band – Even If It Breaks Your Heart

Ryan Kinder – Still Believe In Crazy Love

NeedToBreathe – Hard Love

Kip Moore – Faith When I Fall

Kristian Bush – Walk Tall

Bailey Bryan – Life Goes On

NeedToBreathe – Something Beautiful

Goo Goo Dolls – Better Days

Rise Against – Survive

Linkin Park – Heavy

We all know mental health has been an issue in the media more and more lately. There are celebrities having mental breakdown, musicians taking their own lives when no one knew how troubled they really were. Teenagers and children who are also committing suicide because they’ve been bullied relentlessly. Half the world expresses their deepest sympathies and prays for the loved ones left behind, while the other half mock, criticize, and judge, labeling the deceased a coward, even in death. To those people, I’d like to say that mental health is not a joke. While there are certainly steps people can take to help better their situations, sometimes it’s more complicated and there’s not always an easy or simple solution. People feel alone and so they carry this heaviness with them and eventually they just can’t take it anymore. Either they’ll have a mental breakdown or explode at the wrong time and wrong people or they’ll end the suffering for good. None of these results are the outcomes we want to see, especially the last one, and none of them deserve to be judged or ridiculed by people who don’t understand.

Imagine what would happen if we were all a little nicer to people, if we stopped to check in on people we claim to care about, if we took the time to have a long conversation with them. Imagine the difference we could make in someone’s life without even realizing it. When Tim McGraw released his award-winning song, “Humble and Kind,” people all over social media were quoting the lyrics and preaching the message behind the song, but not many were actually living out those words. People are still self-absorbed, ignorant, cruel, and hurtful. Sure, some of them may not always mean to be or aren’t even aware they’re doing something wrong. But if we just try to be a little kinder, a little more sensitive to others’ feelings, and try to be there for them in a more understanding and less judgmental way, then maybe we’ll see more of a shift in people’s demeanor.

At a time when hatred is spreading like wildfire, let’s spread more positivity. Let’s be the bright spot in someone’s day. Pay attention to those around you, and if you see someone is having a bad day or going through a rough time or just needs a good laugh, try to make it a point to reach out to that person. Whether you send them a text or emoji or GIF or an old-fashioned greeting card saying you’re thinking of them, or you send them the link to a song you think they might enjoy, or you buy them a little surprise because it reminded you of them. No matter how small the gesture, the message is the same – I’m thinking of you and I’m here for you. That’s all anyone really wants to know, is that someone somewhere is thinking about them.

As humans we all want the same thing when it comes down to it. We all want to be loved, needed, and appreciated. These three words are so significant to us as human beings because they’re the foundation of what makes us human. We all want to be loved, needed, and appreciated on different levels and in different aspects of life, and that’s okay. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that or feel guilty because of it. So, if we just try a little harder to be better humans, then maybe we just might see a little more humanity in people. More humanity equals a little less pain and suffering in the world, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Until that change in humanity happens, though, and in the meantime, you can always turn to music. Find comfort in the lyrics of some of your favorite artists, and let them remind you that you’re not alone. Let them inspire you and motivate you, and let them serve as your anchor and as your beacon of light in a blackout. Music can cure things medicine can’t, and music keeps us sane when we’re surrounded by insanity. Let music heal you and wash away the pain and negativity you might be feeling. Let music be the friend you so desperately need.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about music. I live and breathe it. My goal is to make a career out of writing about it. Most of all, though, I depend on music to get me through life, and every curve ball it decides to throw at me. Music is my saving grace and because of that, some of my best friends are playlists. With that, I’m going to leave you with some of my favorite lyrics from some of my comfort songs. These lyrics help me get through the rough patches, and I only hope they inspire you to find your own comfort songs to hold onto when you feel like you’re losing your grip on life.

“There’s a time meant for war/there’s a time meant to pray/there’s a time, there’s a time, there’s a time, there’s a time when all you can say is let it rain”Matt Kearney/Let It Rain

 “Just because it’s pouring down, doesn’t mean we’re gonna drown/there’s a time, there’s a time, there’s a time, there’s a time when all you can say is let it rain” – Matt Kearney/Let It Rain

 “Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings/and designer love and empty things/just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days” – Goo Goo Dolls/Better Days

 “This is over my head but underneath my feet/and by tomorrow morning I’ll have this thing beat/and everything will be back to the way that it was/I wish that it was just that easy/cause I’m waiting for tonight/and I’m waiting for tomorrow/and I’m somewhere in between what is real and just a dream” – Lifehouse/Somewhere In Between

“Hold on/feeling like I’m heading for a breakdown/and I don’t know why/but I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell/I know, right now you can’t tell/but stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see/a different side of me/I’m not crazy, I’m a just a little impaired/I know right now you just don’t care/but soon enough you’re gonna think of me/and how I used to be” – Matchbox Twenty/Unwell

 “I wanna feel the car crash crash/I wanna feel the capsize/I wanna feel the bomb drop, the earth stop/till I’m satisfied/I wanna feel the car crash/cause I’m dying on the inside/I wanna let go and know/that I’ll be alright, alright” – Matt Nathanson/Car Crash

 “I saw you standing in the middle of the thunder and lightning/I know you’re feeling like you just can’t win, but you’re trying/it’s hard to keep on keepin’ on, when you’re being pushed around/don’t even know which way is up, you just keep spinning down, ‘round, down” – Gary Allan/Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)

 “Every storm runs, runs out of rain/just like every dark night turns into day/every heartache will fade away/just like every storm runs, runs out rain” – Gary Allan/Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)

 “When you finally find what you believe/don’t try to fight it/let it set you free/blood, sweat, and tears/down to your last drop/whatever you do, don’t stop/whatever you do, don’t stop” – High Valley/Don’t Stop

 “Dream it, even if it don’t come true/being who you are/there’s only one of you/when holding onto heaven is all you got/whatever you do, don’t stop/love it while you got it/right here, right now/never let the haters drag you down” – High Valley/Don’t Stop

 “God that up-down/feeling in your chest like what now/giving it your best, but you burnt out/the world keeps spinning and your feet can’t find the ground/could be in with the out-crowd/sooner or later it’ll turn around/even when it’s right, even when it’s wrong/life goes on and on and on and on” – Bailey Bryan/Life Goes On

 The sun comes up when the stars keep falling/life goes on and on and on, yeah/morning comes, you can’t take that away/holding on when you keep falling/change is all we got to count on/we’ll get up and fight another day” – Bailey Bryan/Life Goes On

 “Give me an answer/give me the way out/give me the faith/to believe in these hard times” – NeedToBreathe/These Hard Times

 “Reach down your hand in your pocket/pull out some hope for me/it’s been a long day, always ain’t that right/and no lord, your hand won’t stop it/just keep you trembling/it’s been a long day, always ain’t that right” – Matchbox Twenty/Long Day

 “Cause when push comes to shove/you taste what you’re made of/you might bend til you break/cause it’s all you can take/on your knees, you look up/decide you’ve had enough/you get mad, you get strong/wipe your hands, shake it off/then you stand, then you stand” – Rascal Flatts/Stand

“There’ll be days when you’re alone/there’ll be days you wanna crumble/it’ll bring you to your knees/you can rise out of the rubble/put it all on the line to lose/yeah you bet it all on the truth/it doesn’t matter what you say/it only matters what you do” – Kristian Bush/Walk Tall

 “Yeah, we all walk tall in the daylight/yeah, we all walk when it feels right/if you ever wanna be a man/if you ever wanna be a rebel/you gotta walk tall in the moonlight” – Kristian Bush/Walk Tall

 “But I also know my faith, and in weakness there is strength/so I tell myself, there’s no giving up/long as I got a heart inside, until the day I die/I still believe in crazy love, woah oh oh, woah oh oh/I still believe in crazy love” – Ryan Kinder/Still Believe In Crazy Love

 “Yeah, I’ve fallen down more than the rain/but here comes the sun, shining down on me again, yeah” – Ryan Kinder/Still Believe In Crazy Love

 “When you lose, when you rush/when you don’t feel strong enough/everybody needs a pick me up/you can count on me/come what may, come what might/everybody falls down sometimes/don’t lose hope, it’ll be alright/you can count on me/yeah, you can count on me” – NeedToBreathe/Count On Me

 “Give me love when I ain’t got nobody/a little hope when I ain’t got none at all/give me light up ahead on the journey/give me strength when I’m standing/and faith when I fall” – Kip Moore/Faith When I Fall

 “I know the rain is coming and it’s sure gonna pour/I know there ain’t no running from this kind of storm/it’s gonna get harder and harder to keep on pushing through/I’m gonna wanna quit, so I’ll be counting on you” – Kip Moore/Faith When I Fall

 Somewhere between happy and total $&!?ing wreck/feet sometimes on solid ground, sometimes at the edge/to spend your waking moments, simply counting time/is to give up on your hopes and dreams, to give up on your life” – Rise Against/Survive

But how we survive, is what makes us who we are” – Rise Against/Survive

 “I’m holding on/why is everything so heavy/holding on/to so much more than I can carry/I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down/if I just let go, I’d be set free/holding on/why is everything so heavy” – Linkin Park/Heavy

 “Forgive me now where I’ve gone wrong/pick me up and make me strong/sun’s going down, the day’s been long/lead me out where I belong/in the valley, through the rain/the mountains will cry out your name/yeah, just a little is all it takes/a longing that I can’t explain” – Marty Casey/Brand New Fire

 “Looking for a brand new fire/aching with an old desire/fallen from a heart grown tired/looking for a brand new fire” – Marty Casey/Brand New Fire

 “Some dreams stay with you forever/drag you around but bring you back to where you were/some dreams keep on getting better/gotta keep believin’ if you wanna know for sure” – Eli Young Band/Even If It Breaks Your Heart

 “Keep on dreamin’ even if it breaks your heart” – Eli Young Band/Even If It Breaks Your Heart