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Music, Mental Health & Guilty Pleasures

Music is one of the most popular and effective forms of emotional coping available. We pick songs to match our moods or to connect to what we want to feel. There’s something uniquely validating about listening to someone say, sing, or even scream how we feel. The best songs tell our stories and convey powerful emotions.

I’ve lived long enough and well enough to develop an appreciation for things I mocked as a young man. As a kid I hated country music and pop music. I loved rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and alternative music (I’m not even sure what that is nowadays). Today I have an eclectic taste and a lot of “guilty pleasures” – songs that speak to me but I can’t feel proud of enjoying the artist.

Long running example:

“I get knocked down  But I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” – Chumbawumba “Tubthumping”

I know – it’s probably stuck in your head now and I can’t blame you if you curse me for it. But the sheer simplicity and overwhelmingly positive message in those lyrics hits my heart every time. To me, it’s a song about resilience. Its self affirming to say, “Whatever life throws at me; I’m gonna be get back up and keep striving.”

When’s the last time you affirmed yourself like that?

If you’re in need of inspiration find out what the young people in your life are listening to and check it out with an open mind (you can always go back to the oldies station afterward).

I love that my clients share their music with me. The teenagers I work with introduced me to bands like Eyedeas and Abilities, Cage the Elephant, and Dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip. Understanding their music doesn’t just help me understand them – it also gives me new ideas and insight into myself.

One of the most amazing women I’ve ever known shared this song with me:

“It’s a great day to be alive. I know the sun’s still shinin’ when I close my eyes. There’s been hard times in the neighborhood. But why can’t everyday be just this good? – Travis Tritt – “Great day to be alive”

Back story: This woman is a rock who has wrestled with life and won time and time again. She’s just about 5 feet of concrete with a heart bigger than your house. Despite all the bad cards she’s been dealt; she’s grateful and more concerned with what those she loves need. I respect people who get shit done. I admire folks who can’t find time for self pity and I love her song cuz I know it’s true every day.

Speaking of “Everyday” give Dave Matthews a listen.

My newest guilt pleasure is Kelly Clarkson. Her latest song describes most of the people I love. It makes me reflect on where we’ve been, where we are now, and why we need each other.

“People like us we’ve gotta stick together Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom” – Kelly Clarkson “People Like Us”

If you know what it’s like to feel/be “lost and forgotten” then you know what it’s like to need something to hold on to. Music kept me sane while growing up alone. The songs I loved most assured me that it would get better if I didn’t give up.

“People like us (me)” are misfits and our lives get better as we find one another. Shared experiences of the things that speak to us (music, art, community) afford us opportunities to connect.

Of all the things I do not miss from being a child of the 80’s, I do miss boom boxes. I get that IPods are cool but your headphones keep me from hearing what it is that you relate to. Let me know what inspires you!

“Live right now. Just be yourself.” Jimmy Eat World “The Middle

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