Like everyone else on Earth, music is a big part of my life. I don’t remember the last time I went a day without listening to music – is this even possible? Even when I find myself in complete silence, there is bound to be some verse stuck in my head; it’s like there is a mini radio in the back of my brain that hits shuffle at random points throughout the day.
There is an indisputable connection between music and your mental health. Music holds a therapeutic influence over our mental well being, causing our dopamine levels to soar. It can also help to decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Not only does it activate the sector of your brain that is responsible for your emotions, but it also triggers memories. We all have those songs that instantly transport us back to a specific summer or remind us of a loved one. In these dark, bitter months, something as simple as playing music that evokes strong, positive memories on your way to uni could turn a bad morning into a good one. It’s important not to just have music on in the background all the time, but to actively listen to songs from time to time. Take in what you hear and how it makes you feel. Feel empowered to take control of any feelings of isolation and melancholy that can creep up on us during winter.
When you’re feeling depressed, it might seem like the most practical thing to do would be to play some upbeat, mood boosters. But many researchers have argued that upbeat music is actually less effective for beating the blues. Instead of forcing yourself to get up and dance to those feel good classics, it is better to own your melancholic state. Putting on a sad song when you’re feeling depressed can have a rather soothing effect – you feel understood and a little less alone in the world. Melancholic albums provide the validation and reassurance that often becomes absent during the isolating months of winter. Despite many people in my life not understanding why I would choose to wallow in sad music, you can definitely count on me to be listening to Sufjan Stevens and Mitski as soon as the temperature drops.
Whether you’ve got your headphones on or you’re seeing a musical at the theatre, music can act as a form of relief for your depression and anxiety. Although music is certainly not a cure for seasonal depression, don’t underestimate the significant difference it can make in tackling your winter blues!