So, yesterday, I had a thought: music seems to have a profound effect on my mental health. I’m not a medical professional, mind; this is all my anecdotal evidence. But when I stopped singing, is when my mental state was at its worst. Let me explain.

A few years ago, I was sharing a flat with someone overseas. I was almost alone, scared, ignorant, poor, and spent the whole time in a state of limbo. I developed quite bad anxiety and became very insular, which is still affecting me today. And I think a fair bit of it had to do with the fact that I was not allowed to sing.

I’m one of those people who would sing all the time. I sang in the shower, sang whilst cooking, washing up, anything. I surrounded myself with music because it helped ease the boredom and loneliness, and helped me get through things I hated, like cleaning. But then my flatmate told me to stop, because it was annoying. So I did. I stopped singing and playing my music aloud.

I had no way to express myself. Music reaches you on a level that’s hard to describe or quantify. It’s so intangible, but yet it hits you deep, in a way that’s almost primal. Even though I had my headphones, it wasn’t the same. It’s also the second biggest trigger of memory, after smell. If you’re a music fan, you don’t realise how important it is to you, how much a part of you it becomes and how much you want to belt it out. Although I’m a writer, my thoughts became too jumbled to sort out through words. Sometimes music is the only way for me to work through my feelings.

Music therapy, as I understand it, is becoming a major technique, especially in the elderly due to its power to unlock memory. I witnessed this first hand when I briefly worked in a high-care facility for the elderly. There’s also this beautiful video, of an old man literally coming to life after listening to the songs he loved when he was young. The power of music is not to be underestimated, I think.

Think about your adolescence. What got you through it? Whether it was sitting in your room listening for hours, or sharing a sneaky Discman with friends during class, or making a mix tape for the bus ride to school (yep, I’m old enough to have done that), or going to your first concerts without your parents with friends or your boy/girlfriend.

I’m slowly starting to learn to sing again. Thankfully I now live with someone who feels the same way I do, and sings loud and sings often and is encouraging me to start again. But what used to feel like a second habit now feels strange and forced. I stand in the shower and forget the lyrics to songs I may have listened to a couple of days before. My ability to remember things these days is pretty shocking. My voice is way out of practice, what little I had. Instead of being quiet for all this time, I have to learn to be unabashedly noisy again, and that’s hard.

Yeah, I’m one of those annoying people at concerts who sing along. But singing along, or aloud, makes the song that much more powerful – you have to learn it inside out, connect with it, and then let it out. Going to concerts of my favourite bands, and joining my voice with the singer, is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a religious experience. I reach a state of euphoria that is totally unique. When I sang, it made me happy. It was my own little performance, my own bit of creativity I could do anywhere, anytime, by myself. I didn’t give a shit how I sounded, what people thought of my voice or the song I was singing. I felt free. I felt connected. Some music triggers certain emotions in me, whether it’s by sound or memory, and by singing along, I feel entrenched in that experience. And I miss it.

So, I’m starting again. I’m discovering new singers who convey so much with their voices, and I can’t wait to learn the words so I can do it along with them. I may not sound like Florence and the Machine (who does?) but I want to ride along with her on her odd journeys through loneliness, revenge and the water.

Will it change my mental well-being for the better, in accordance with my theory? I’m not sure yet. But in a couple of months I’ll definitely let you know.

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