Music Does NOT Build Your Mental Health
Please put down your torch and pitchforks! Hear me out…
I love music….In fact, I’m listening to music as I write this.
I couldn’t imagine NOT listening to music in a fitness class or with my trainers lifting weights and putting them back down again.
In fact, I love music so much, one of my posts is the top 5 game-changer albums of all-time.
Again, I LOVE MUSIC!!
Music does not build your mental health.
First, the stigma surrounding mental health is simple. Google it and see the results.
Mental health does not mean mental illness and unless we can change this viewpoint, the stigma will remain. When you hear physical health, do you automatically think, broken arm?
Mental Health = Health = Mental Strength
We need to train our brain and not just treat our brain.
Our mental health requires us to be mindful, deal with adversity, and cope with the struggle and setbacks in life. This takes practice and it takes focus.
The point of writing this is to clear up a big misconception about music, mental health, and performance. I understand if you don’t want to look behind the curtain and not read any further…I’m bearing bad, but truthful news that music does not build your mental health.
If you are trying to improve, practice mindfulness, and be able to combat the negative thoughts, then there will be benefits in reading this. But, if you’re happy in life, and just want to keep living and surviving, then please just keep the earbuds in and keep listening to music. My wife doesn’t even believe me when it comes to this topic. But, she forgets that when she ran a PR in a 1/2 marathon, she dropped the dependence on music.
Music DOES NOT Build Your Mental Health (Sorry)
Recent news stories about music want to tell you otherwise- Like this one in NPR.
1. Music ONLY helps with motivation-
The reason why we dig the sounds during any type of work, spin class, practice, or workout session is that it makes us feel good and we use the music! Blasting some good tunes with high RPM’s gets us moving faster (for a short period).
It helps us gets the workout in! It distracts us and that’s motivation! Put on the armband and get going… Motivation…
2. Music does NOT help with focus-
Life is hard! When fatigue sets in during life stressors or practice, or when we are under pressure, our focus must come out naturally.
What comes naturally must first be done with due diligence. Hence, we perform like we train.
We all have negative thoughts that constantly bombard us and we won’t even know what thoughts will enter our mind unless we have prepared for it.
Only going through these tough times without music will force us to focus when stress hits or when we are under pressure.
3. Music distracts us-
We are distracted all day long.
We all go through life thinking about what’s coming up, or during any moment of downtime, we look at our phone. Since we are distracted, we often are not clear about what’s bothering us.
So, we want to add another distraction? Stay focused on focusing!
Stay with your pain until your pain reveals its gift.
How can we possibly try and improve our mental health while always living up that Spotify station?
4. Don’t Be An Addict-
How long could you go without your phone? An hour? 20 Minutes?
You don’t own the device, the device owns you!
The thought of living without music scares you? Addicts can’t go without. You’ve become dependent on another electrical device.
5. Turn on, Tune in, & Drop out-
We are either checking in or checking out of life and situations.
If we’ve got the music going and we are trying to do our best, we can’t check-in appropriately because we have been checking out the whole time.
That’s the lie, we think we are focusing, but not really.
Don’t believe me? Riddle me this, why do you turn the music down in your car when you really need to focus?
6. When Michael Phelps does it-
Phelps and many other greats listen to music “before” they compete.
However, you don’t see him donning the underwater i-pods, nor do you see those at the front of races rocking the tunes either. There’s a reason. They are focused.
Since music does not build your mental health. Here is what we need to do instead.
Of course, listen to music when you want to, what I’m asking is that you be intentional about listening.
1. Maximize your transitions- William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” A transition is a process. The goal of a successful transition is that we are in the best spot mentally when we arrive.
2. Breathe- The transitions in life are the absolute perfect time to focus on our rectangle breathing. Spend a little time every day turning the music off and getting centered.
3. Listen- to music while you drive or mow the grass, not while training or during practice.
4. Evaluate- Where am I right now and where do I need to focus? Do I need to relax more, address my business, gain more knowledge, or connect with others?
When re-writing this article, I turned the music off. If you find an error, I probably turned my station back on.
Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness-