Teenagers and Directing negative emotions healthily
Adolescence is a phase that comes with its own set of unique challenges. Teenagers pre-COVID often face a variety of negative emotions due to stress, anxiety, and other stressful life events... in 2023: that has been exacerbated with the advent of, and addiction to, social media, as well as the struggle to recover from the isolation, fear and online-schooling that 2020 and 2021 brought with it.
No matter how old you are, however, negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and sadness can have significant impacts on physical and mental health if they are not addressed in a healthy way, and I have found that writing songs can be an effective way for teenagers, in particular, to direct their frustration, trauma, and negative energy healthily, and channel it into something productive and positive.
In this blog post, I want to explore with you the importance of directing negative emotions healthily, the benefits of writing songs, and how teenagers can use songwriting as a tool for emotional regulation and building emotional wellness.
Negative Emotions and Stressful Life Events
Negative emotions are a natural part of life, and teenagers are no exception to this. I have found that many of the young people I work with often experience negative emotions as a direct result of a variety of factors, such as:
Academic pressure - with some kids worrying about college and career from the age of as young as 11years.
Family issues - everything from divorcing parents to trying to gain or maintain normalcy after immigration and gang violence.
Relationship problems - learning about love is hard
Or any other stressful life events.
Stressful life events can trigger negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. These same negative emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with, and if left unchecked, they can have a significant impact on physical and mental health, such as depression and anxiety... which, if left unchecked, can develop into sickness and/or life-threatening illnesses.
In other words: it is crucial for teenagers to learn how to manage their negative emotions in a healthy way to prevent them from impacting their mental and physical health.
But there is hope.
Positive Emotions and Their Role in Emotional Regulation
While negative emotions can have a significant impact on mental and physical health, positive emotions can help to mitigate these effects. Positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, contentment, and satisfaction can help to reduce the impact of negative emotions and help to regulate emotions overall.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively. Emotional regulation is a key component of emotional intelligence, and it involves the ability to regulate emotions in a healthy and adaptive way. Developing emotional intelligence and emotional regulation skills can help teenagers to manage their negative emotions more effectively and improve their overall mental health.
But, how do we do this?
Writing Songs as a Tool for Emotional Regulation
I've been writing songs for as long as I can remember, and I realized a few years back that one of the key reasons I've always been drawn to music and songwriting is simply because of this one thing:
Writing songs is an effective way for teenagers to direct their frustration, trauma, and negative energy in a healthy way.
Songwriting has always allowed me the space, time, and permission to take a step outside of myself, identify each specific negative emotions and thought, simplify the overwhelm associated with those emotions and thoughts, take the time to dig into and understand each emotion and thought, and almost write a game plan in how to overcome those thoughts and feelings.
Which led me to my own a-ha moment: songwriting is a powerfully effective outlet for everyone - but especially teenagers - to express their emotions and work through their problems in a healthy way.
When teenagers write songs, they are creating something meaningful and personal that they can be proud of. They are also developing their emotional intelligence and emotional regulation skills by learning to identify, understand, and manage their emotions effectively.
The Benefits of Writing Songs
There are numerous benefits to writing songs, especially for teenagers. Some of these benefits include:
Increased Self-awareness: Songwriting allows teenagers to explore their emotions and thoughts in a safe and controlled way, which can help them to develop greater self-awareness, and exercise self-love and -patience.
Emotional Regulation: Writing songs helps teenagers to regulate their emotions more effectively, which can help to improve their overall mental health and wellbeing.
Self-expression: Songwriting allows teenagers to express themselves in a unique, creative, and safe way, which can help them to feel more empowered and confident.
Stress Relief: Writing songs can be a cathartic and stress-relieving activity, which can help teenagers to manage their stress levels more effectively.
Improved Communication: Songwriting can help teenagers to develop their communication skills by learning to express themselves more clearly and effectively.
Creative Outlet: Songwriting is a creative outlet that can help teenagers to develop their artistic skills and express themselves in a unique way that is not possible through other means. The addition of music also promotes oxytocin and dopamine release, whilst reducing cortisol [stress] levels.
Improved Mental Health: Writing songs can have a positive impact on mental health, including reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Improved Problem Solving Skills: Songwriting involves problem solving skills, such as figuring out how to express an idea or emotion in a way that is clear and effective. I often refer to this process as the KISS method [Keep It Simple, Songwriter/Superstar]. This approach to problem solving can be applied to other areas of life.
So.... how do we do this?
How to Write Songs for Emotional Regulation
Writing songs can be a powerful tool for emotional regulation, but it's important to approach it in a mindful, intentional and supported way. Here are some tips for using songwriting as a tool for emotional regulation:
Choose a specific emotion or experience to write about: Start by identifying a specific emotion or experience that you want to explore in your song. This could be a negative emotion, such as anger or sadness, or a positive emotion, such as love or happiness.
Brainstorm: Once you have identified the emotion or experience you want to write about, take some time to brainstorm ideas for your song. This could include writing down specific words or phrases that come to mind, or writing a free-form stream of consciousness about the emotion or experience. I refer to this process in my book: Reconnect with your Teenager as "word vomit".
Use metaphor and imagery: Metaphor and imagery can be powerful tools for expressing emotions and experiences in a creative and meaningful way. Use metaphor and imagery to paint a picture of the emotion or experience you are exploring in your song.
Keep it simple: Songwriting doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, some of the most powerful songs are the simplest. Focus on conveying your message in a clear and concise way, without getting bogged down in complex lyrics or musical arrangements.
Be honest and authentic: Authenticity is key when it comes to writing songs for emotional regulation. Don't try to force yourself to feel a certain way or write in a certain style. Instead, focus on expressing yourself in a way that feels true to who you are.
Of course, these are 5 rather broad steps to writing music... generally speaking: I use a 9 step process in how I use songwriting to empower and support the mental health and well-being of the teenagers I work with.
Negative emotions and stressful life events are a natural part of life, but they can have a significant impact on mental and physical health if they are not addressed in a healthy way. Writing songs is an effective way for teenagers to direct their frustration, trauma, and negative energy in a healthy way.
Songwriting allows teenagers to identify specific negative emotions and thoughts, simplify the overwhelm associated with those emotions and thoughts, take the time to dig into and understand each emotion and thought, and almost write a game plan in how to overcome those thoughts and feelings.
Writing songs can have numerous benefits, including increased self-awareness, emotional regulation, self-expression, stress relief, improved communication, a creative outlet, improved mental health, and improved problem solving skills. By approaching songwriting in a mindful and intentional way, and in a supported and safe environment, teenagers can use this powerful tool to develop their emotional intelligence and emotional regulation skills, and improve their overall mental health and wellbeing.
Of course, I've been doing this work for decades with my own emotions, music, and creative output, but it's only been in the past decade that I've been working intentionally with young people to help them channel their frustrations, overwhelm, anxiety, stress and negative emotions into positive emotions and creative output - using songwriting, singing, and even recording music.
If you or your teenager is looking for creative new ways to improve one's mental health, emotional development, and even academic performance, I'd love to discuss how I can help guide, mentor and coach you and your inner songwriting rockstar self!
Simply CLICK HERE to book a free discovery call so I can answer any questions you might have about turning those negative emotions into positive emotions and powerful music.
I look forward to speaking with you soon!