Emotional Fitness – Making Music is an Exercise in Mental Health

Emotions are a fundamental aspect of human life, and letting ourselves feel them is an essential part of our mental health journey. Of course, emotions can manifest as both positive and negative, and thus: they can have a significant impact on our mental well-being - either positively or negatively. There's a common misconception, however, that in order to be a positive person: one must almost ignore those negative thoughts and feelings, and focus solely on the positive ones [commonly referred to as "toxic positivity"]... however, the "fake it till you make it" idea is a damaging one, as it leads to emotional suppression. I hate it to break it to you, but suppressing our emotions or failing to process them can lead to significant mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and stress. Therefore, it is crucial to find ways to process emotions effectively.

One way to do this is through music - specifically: through songwriting.

I've often thought of the art of songwriting as an exercise in emotional fitness. The ability to identify, analyze, understand and process our emotions in a healthy and creative way is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, because it gives us the opportunity to lean into the tough stuff, give ourselves time to workout those emotions [nope, that wasn't a typo], and eventually come out the other side stronger, more resilient, and more sure of ourselves.

Music has been used as a tool to communicate emotions for centuries. It is a universal language that allows people to express themselves in ways that words alone cannot. Not only does listening to music have the power to evoke deep emotions, and provide a sense of comfort and solace, but coupled with self-reflection, meditation, and authenticity: music can also be used as a tool to not only build emotional strength, but keep us feeling grounded in the process.

When we engage in the act of songwriting, we are not only creating something beautiful and honest, but we are also building our emotional muscles... and one of the biggest flexes anyone can have in 2023 is the ability to love themselves, show up honestly, and maintain a full cup of self-esteem. In this blog post, we will explore how making music can be a grounding activity that promotes emotional health and wellness.

1. Your heart is a muscle

Have you ever been left feeling absolutely exhausted after an emotional, heated or triggering conversation? What about after a heartfelt cry? When we feel emotions, we experience them in our bodies, so I've often thought of the act of letting yourself feel your emotions being the equivalent of doing pushups or a crossfit workout - but for your emotional strength.

Feeling is tiring!

So - just as you need to exercise your body to keep it healthy, you also need to exercise your emotional muscles to keep them strong... and the only way to get stronger is put your muscles under stress. One more deadlift. One more snatch. One more pull up. One more mile. Similarly: when you allow yourself to feel your emotions [especially the stressful ones], you are giving your emotional muscles a workout. The more you do this, the stronger your emotional muscles become.

With the right approach or coaching: songwriting can be a powerfully effective form of emotional exercise, as writing music allows you to lean into those overwhelming or stressful emotions, process them, and turn them into something beautiful. When you write a song, you are giving yourself permission to feel your emotions fully - taking something raw and intense and transforming it into a work of art. You are allowing yourself to explore the depths of your feelings and express them in a creative way. This process can be incredibly cathartic and can help you to process and manage your emotions.

Which is especially important for teenagers, who often feel very deeply.

Taking those potentially negative feelings - or even anxious thoughts - and applying some of the grounding techniques that come with the songwriting process can be a powerfully effective way to not just come out stronger emotionally, but also have a tangible theme song for the next time that you're feeling anxiety, or a need for calm.

2. Allowing yourself permission to lean into those emotions and turn them into a song is the ultimate in strength training for your soul and emotional wellness.

Songwriting is not only about expressing your emotions; it is also about creating something that is beautiful and meaningful. When you write a song, you are creating something that is uniquely yours. This act of creation can be incredibly fulfilling and can give you a sense of purpose and meaning.

Letting yourself feel your emotions is the equivalent of doing pushups or a crossfit workout - but for your emotional strength. Just as physical exercise helps to strengthen our muscles, allowing ourselves to feel our emotions helps to build emotional strength. Allowing ourselves permission to lean into those emotions and turn them into a song is the ultimate in strength training for our soul and emotional wellness.

However, sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by our emotions and struggle to manage them effectively. This is where grounding techniques can be incredibly helpful. Grounding techniques are activities that help us to focus our attention and connect with the present moment. They can be particularly useful for managing anxiety and stress.

Songwriting is one such grounding activity. When we immerse ourselves in the act of songwriting, we are able to tune out the noise and distractions of the world around us and focus solely on our creative process. This can help us to feel more grounded and centered, and to better manage our anxiety and stress.

There are many grounding techniques for anxiety that we can use to manage overwhelming feelings. One simple technique is deep breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths can help to calm our nervous system and promote a sense of relaxation. Another technique is mindfulness meditation. By focusing our attention on the present moment and observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment, we can reduce anxiety and stress.

3. communication is key

Songwriting isn't just an exercise in strength building, but functional strength, as it gives the songwriter the skills, words and ability to communicate their thoughts more clearly and effectively than they otherwise might in a normal conversation.

Not just with the person you're speaking with, but also - often - with yourself.

One of the key principles I use when I'm working with my Empowerment through Songwriting clients is the KISS method:

Keep

It

Simple,

Songwriter.

When you write a song, you are learning to identify and sit in your thoughts and feelings before truly taking the time understand them, before you then express yourself in a way that is clear and effective. This skill can be applied in many areas of life, including personal relationships and professional settings.

In addition to communication skills, songwriting also requires creativity and problem-solving skills. When you write a song, you are faced with the challenge of taking abstract emotions and turning them into something tangible. This process requires creativity and problem-solving skills, which can be applied in many areas of life. With my teen clients, specifically, those skills are most often applied to how they communicate with their parents or teachers.

I mean, beyond emojis, snapchats and TikTok videos.

In other words: songwriting allows you to explore your emotions, develop your communication skills, and create something beautiful and meaningful as a result.

Speaking of which:

4. Forget the Trophy - You've Got a Song

Similar to competing in any sports competition: songwriting allows the writer to earn a prize - but instead of a trophy, they have a personal theme song that represents them, their journey, and their thoughts and feelings. This personal theme song is not only a victorious anthem and reminder of they lessons they've learned throughout their songwriting journey, but it can serve as a grounding tool, reminding the songwriter of their inner strength and resilience, and helping them to feel more connected to themselves and their emotions.

Music is another powerful grounding technique for anxiety. Research has shown that music can have a profound impact on our emotional state, helping us to regulate our moods and feel more grounded. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy found that music therapy was effective in reducing anxiety and depression in patients with mental health disorders.

What better way to overcome that anxiety and depression than with a personalized anthem for you - by you - about how you've gone toe to toe with struggles in the ring, and come out victorious?

Making music is an exercise for our mental health.

When you allow yourself to feel your emotions and turn them into a song, you are giving yourself permission to process and manage your emotions in a healthy way. Songwriting can help you to develop important skills that can be applied in many areas of life. And just like in any sports competition, songwriting allows you to earn a prize - but instead of a trophy, you have a personal theme song that represents you, your journey, and your thoughts and feelings.

Songwriting specifically also offers some powerful opportunities for grounding, which is especially important for young people as they wrestle with how to show up for themselves, and for the world.

When coached properly, young people can use grounding techniques such as:

  • breathing exercises
  • listening to classical music
  • practicing mindfulness
  • reflecting on strong emotions they may be carrying
  • alchemizing unwanted memories into focusing on the positive lessons they've learned as a result
  • re-focusing their energy on the positive messages they can take from the mess they may be experiencing

So not only does the experience of feeling the feelings, and turning them into song work as an exercise in both emotional fitness and centeredness, but - suddenly - songwriters can use the subsequent song into the catalyst for future grounding exercises.

If you're interested in exploring songwriting as a tool for emotional fitness for you or you , there are many resources available to you.

You can start by joining some songwriting groups, or - after a therapy or counselling session: find a quiet place to reflect on your emotions and jot down some lyrics that capture your feelings.

Alternatively, if you're interested in more one on one coaching to help you turn your struggles into song: I'd love to coach you. I've been a Youth Empowerment through Songwriting coach for close to four years now [and have been teaching for over 17years!] so would love to discuss how songwriting might be the emotional workout flex you need in your journey to mental wellness.

Whatever path you choose, remember that making music is not just about creating something beautiful; it is also about building emotional strength and resilience.

You got this.

Write your masterpiece.

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