According to the World Health Organisation, depression affects more than 350 million people globally, of all ages. Musicians as prominent as Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen have spoken publicly about mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety, and all can attest to the power of music to help with such problems.
International Stress Awareness Week is celebrated every year from 4-8 November, offering an opportunity to explore the positive influence music can have on our lives and our mental health. Numerous scientific and psychological studies have shown that music can lift our moods, combat depression, improve blood flow in ways similar to statins, lower levels of stress-related hormones such as cortisol, and ease pain. Music can improve the outcomes for patients after surgery. A recent study reported in Nature Neuroscience even demonstrated that levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain rose by up to nine per cent when people listened to music they enjoyed.
Though the idea of music as a balm is nothing new – more than 400 years ago William Shakespeare said that “music can raze out the written troubles of the brain” – people are turning to music as a way to deal with the stresses of modern digital-driven life. Matt Haig, the author of the inspirational book Reasons To Stay Alive, recently set some of the words of his book to music on an album made with former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows.
In his book, Haig says that the way to escape time is music, and that sentiment would echo with the acclaimed composer, pianist and producer Max Richter. The West German-born Brit guest-curated the Peaceful Music playlist, co-created between Universal Music Group and Apple Music, precisely to help people find “a useful place to rest” amid the frenzy of modern life.
Below are 15 inspirational and thoughtful quotes about the power of music as therapy and the ways in which it is good for all of us to open up about mental-health concerns.
Listen to the Peaceful Music playlist exclusively on Apple Music.
“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
Elton John, who says we should never be afraid of saying three simple words: “I need help”
“The idea of music having a use goes back centuries. The beginnings of written-down music was the liturgy, and obviously that has a connection with the idea of a meditative state and all of that. So music can really be useful in that way.”
Max Richter, guest curator of the Peaceful Music playlist
“Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth of sorts.”
Author Matt Haig, in How to Stop Time
“I think any time I’ve ever got down or ever felt low the one thing that picks me up from that is writing a song about it. At least you’ve got a positive experience out of a bad experience.”
Singer Ed Sheeran
“Music should be an essential part of every analysis.”
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961)
“Analysis did me a lot of good. I think that self-confrontation is a good thing, whether you do it by yourself in solitude, or whether you do it in the presence of another person.”
Joni Mitchell, from her autobiography, In Her Own Words
“When music is needed, it’s really there and it serves a purpose.”
Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose music, including ‘Flight From The City’, is featured on the Peaceful Music playlist
“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”
Oliver Sacks, best-selling author and professor of neurology at NYU School Of Medicine
“Music is life itself.”
Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter (1901-1971)
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
“Each time you play music, it becomes new. This is one way I’ve been thinking about memory and the present, past and future times all fitting together. I called it an exquisite moment. It’s an exquisite moment because the audience and the situation of performing allows us, requires us, to think of that moment. Very often we go through life without thinking about that moment. We talk about mindfulness but we’re not very mindful, most of us.”
Composer Philip Glass, whose composition ‘Echorus’ is included in the Peaceful Music playlist
“Mental illness is not something that you have to live with for the rest of your life. It is not something that will stop you being part of the workforce. But you do have to talk to people about it and you do have to get help. And you can recover.”
Adam Clayton, bassist with U2
“I suffer from a mental illness. I suffer from PTSD. I’ve never told anyone that before, so here we are. But the kindness that’s shown to me by doctors as well as my family, and my friends, it’s really saved my life.”
Lady Gaga, talking in 2016 about the mental effects of a sexual assault she suffered as a teenager
“We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them. And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. We have a responsibility to talk about mental health and to remove the stigma.”
Singer James Blake, talking in July 2018
“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.”
The late, great singer Aretha Franklin
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted free on 116 123, or email email@example.com (UK). In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.