Music, Manifestation, and Mental Health

Years ago: as a child and young adult first trying to understand, process and work through issues of self esteem, worthiness, and trauma [specifically brain trauma]: I was introduced to the concept of affirmations: a list of positive words, phrases, and self-acclaimed compliments designed to [what felt like] brain wash me into believing that I was awesome, capable, and fabulous.

You may have had similar experiences.

I distinctly remember, after a particularly traumatic experience as an adolescent, looking askant at my then-therapist, as they encouraged me to write down bullet-point after bullet-point of sentences that may have sounded positive, but just simply didn't fit right in my head.

You may be familiar with this concept. A quick Google search of affirmations brings up some results that always felt to me to be inauthentic, and uncomfortable:

  • I am enough.

  • I believe in my dreams, myself, and all that I am.

  • I love myself for who I am.

  • I create my own happiness.

  • My life is filled with abundance of goodness.

  • My challenges are actually opportunities.

  • I am beautiful just the way I am.

Sure: they sound good, but repeating them to myself in the mirror just made me feel silly - as if I was trying to convince myself to believe my own make-believe. Affirmations, as a concept, made me feel like I was acting the part... but not becoming the part. The idea of "fake it till you make it" didn't feel good... and, I'll be honest, was a contributing factor to me building an emotional wall [a la Pink Floyd] and mask that I started to hide behind.

Not so good for one's mental health.

So what is with everyone's perceived obsession with affirmations? Well, whether it's to do with the change in generational development, or the need to approach child development differently in the age of technology: I found myself leaning into affirmations in a pretty unconventional way.

Let me explain.

It is a fact that young people, in particular, tend to struggle with mental health, self esteem, and a sense of worthiness more than most other generations, however: after the COVID-19 Pandemic - where the entire globe was forced to sit in isolation for months on end - it became glaringly obvious that much of the Western world struggle with recognizing and owning one's sense of value. Quite often: adults tie their sense of self to their job titles, or the amount of hustle and grind they perform from day to day.

Similarly: we tend to encourage our young adults to place their sense of worth and power in their grades, their extra-curricular activities, and their emotional balance.

As a result, we have a generation [or two or three] that has suddenly found that their sense of self isn't as solid as it once was. Multiple friendships have been tested, working from home has led to a lot of lonely people, and the hustle and grind mindset is perhaps more popular than ever.

There's only so much that one can do when it comes to affirming to yourself that you are enough, or that your challenges are actually opportunities, when you're already trying to contend with a tumultuous political, environmental and social outside-world.

So what if we could modernize those affirmations and positive words a little bit?

Years ago, I remember being told that positivity is toxic, because it [often] ignores how difficult things are. My response to that has always been: being positive doesn't mean ignoring the negative, but simply focusing on the positive so much so that the negative events, feelings and ideas pale in comparison.

As such, it's important to:

  • recognize the traumas, struggles and overwhelm

    then

  • look at how we can use the power of positive words to transform the negative into positive.

Because in life: we all have the ability to use affirmations to transform life's metaphorical trash into inspiring treasure. But how?

Let's dig a little bit deeper, shall we?

Okay, so if we break this down into some more manageable bite-sized chunks: steps towards mental wellness starts with mindset. After all, as Abraham Hicks often says: a belief is simply a thought you keep thinking. So what if we could consciously use our thoughts in a productive, positive and effective way?

Now, I don't know if you're religious, dear reader, but according to the English Contemporary version of Revelations 3:14 in the Bible, "[You are] the one called Amen! I am the faithful and true witness and the source of God's creation". In other words: if we are all made in God's image, and if God is truly perfect, then after every prayer, when one says "Amen", you are essentially saying "I am". Because YOU are the product of all things holy, sacred and powerful.

In Hebrew, Amen is derived from the Hebrew āmēn, which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily”. In other words: everything we say in prayer is certain and true.

To take that one step further: if to pray to ask of God/source/the universe, then to meditate is to listen to the response.

How does that all fit together?

Because the words "I Am" aren't merely an affirmation anymore. They're the result of truth and certainty, and the product of God's/sources/the Universe's creation of perfection.

So stating that "I Am Powerful" is no longer simply a reflection of you and your power, but recognition of the power of source.

Stating "I Am [followed by whatever powerful words]" is no longer about faking it till you make it: it's communicating your authentic - and very real - essence of awesome.

Even when we are feeling in our lowest points: we can use the words "I Am" to turn our perceived struggles into superpowers, and focus on those strengths.

But how?

Just like working out at the gym, we often need to test our emotional and mental strength by putting our metaphorical muscles to the test. The only way we develop strong physical muscles is to lift increasingly heavier weights, so - similarly - when it comes to developing strong emotional and mental muscles: it can be beneficial to look at each adversity as an opportunity to intentionally use the struggle to grow those muscles.

Which means we need to be intentional about what positive words we use, and how we actually use them. Instead of simply repeating to ourselves the age old affirmations of:

  • I am enough.

  • I believe in my dreams, myself, and all that I am.

  • I love myself for who I am.

  • I create my own happiness.

  • My life is filled with abundance of goodness.

... which often feel fake or inauthentic because they're not often related to any of our real time experiences; I think it can be powerful to look at the perceived negative situations we're currently in, and identify direct ways that we can turn that emotional or social trash into mental wellness treasure.

What do I mean?

Well, let's first look at the isolation that many of us felt throughout 2020 and the subsequent WFH status that many of us are still living with:

  • Instead of focusing on the loneliness and lack of socialization, we are building the emotional muscle of self-love, and enjoying our own company.

  • Instead of focusing on the ways in which our co-workers and friends relate to us in the office, we can choose to focus on the value we can bring to both our work and our own self esteem when we are in a comfortable environment [home].

  • Instead of focusing on a 9 to 5 work schedule to appease the boss, we can focus instead on being intentional with our time, and make our physical and spiritual health [read: exercise and meditation] a priority.

In other words: what is the blessing in the lesson? What is the silver lining around an other-wise dull cloud? How can we focus on the delightful and favorable aspects of an otherwise-negative situation?

After all: strength doesn't come from smooth sailing... it's born from adversity, struggle and difficulty.

But focusing on the silver lining only does so much.

This is the key piece, I believe: once we have identified the incredible opportunities for growth and strength-building, we need to actually put that learning into practice.

And that is where affirmations can come into play. By creating affirmations from direct life-experiences, we can actually start to take ownership of the directions of our healing, and of our lives.

Breakups

Often it's easy to look at a break up as evidence that you're not worthy of love, joy or companionship. What if the breakup is actually a sign that your life's trajectory requires you to be free from any significant relationships? What if you're meant to be alone for now, because you're about to level up in life, career or family in a way that depends on you being a free agent for the time being? Or [my personal favorite]: what if the breakup happened because your happiness is only going to found once you've found happiness in yourself [especially if the relationship was toxic - hello, attachment trauma]?

The latter example led me to my own affirmations of:

  • I am powerful and brave enough to save myself.

  • I am worthy of my own love

  • I am worthy of quality relationships

Failures

Similar to breakups, it's easy to look at failure as a reflection of one's own self worth. Failure can look like a multitude of things: job demotions or loss, weight gain, getting a low grade at school... the list is endless.

But what if - a John C Maxwell said "Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward"? Every perceived failure might simply be an opportunity for us to move in a different direction. So instead of focusing on affirmations like "I create my own happiness", [which - I'll be honest - always makes me feel pressures and almost to blame for my unhappiness], I started creating my own positive words like:

  • I will fail up

  • Even the strongest sometimes fall

  • I will fall into trust [ing the universe]

Getting Injured or Falling Sick

This one's a biggie for me. After all, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when I was just 4months old, and by the time I was 12, I'd had ten brain surgeries and 24 surgeries in total. Sickness is hard. Scars are hard. Medical trauma is hard.

But - again - while it's easy to look at injury and sickness as marks against your own quality of humanity, or worthiness for respect: I learned pretty quickly that my scars were almost badges of achievement. I had been through some intense experiences with surgeries, brain damage and bullying, but I was able to create my own positive affirmations:

  • I'm in control of how I look at, and treat myself, my peers, and the world around me

  • For every negative feeling, there's a [powerful] opportunity to grow, heal and thrive

  • If my story, truth and determination to survive is too much for some people, that's a "them problem".

Of course, these reverse perspectives may not always feel like "affirmations" as such, but when I was then able to add music and melody to the Emma G-brand of affirmation: I was able to now look at my newfound list of positive words, and turn each one into a self-affirming anthem of freedom, healing, worthiness and self love.

Here are some examples of turning mental struggles into manifestation and mental wellness using music:

Affirmation: I Am Worthy of My Own Love

Affirmation: Even the strongest sometimes fall [and that's okay!]

Affirmation: For every negative feeling, there's a [powerful] opportunity to grow, heal and thrive

Why does adding music to affirmations work so much better? How does songwriting really help us to turn that uncomfortable list of positive words into an impactful and effective tool to help us navigate the negative headspace, traumas, and adversities?

Music - especially combined with positive words and the act of songwriting - stimulates the brain in so many powerful ways: increasing oxytocin and dopamine, lowering cortisol, triggering parts of the brain that allow us to recreate traumatic memories through a positive lens... I actually talk about the more scientific part of music and its effects in my TEDx Talk here:

But it's up to you.

How do YOU want to manifest mental wellness? If you've attempted to use affirmations in the past, did they work effectively? Or did you also find yourself feeling like you were simply faking it till you made it? What if there was an easier way to become that fabulous, enthusiastic, and radiant person you always wanted to be - filled with self -respect and -love?

You very well might be just one song away.

And I'd love to help you.

If you, or your teenager, are looking for new ways to turn your struggles into mental health success: click here to book a call with me to see how Empowerment through Songwriting might be the ticket.

I'd love to show you how you truly are far more capable than you might realize when it comes to your mental and emotional health journey.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

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