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The Musical Society:

I love music. I love to sing (poorly) in the car, in the shower, when I’m cleaning my house, and really any chance I get. Music seems to fill my soul and generally brings me joy.


Research suggests that music reduces stress and decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, leading to an overall more satisfying life. Music can also help us connect to our emotionsand improve our mood. Sharing songs makes it possible to share how we feel with someone without having to put it into words. Music is good for our body, soul, and mind.


While I love listening to music alone, music with others hits differently. There is something about rocking out with others, singing with my friends or kids in the car (think Bohemian Rhapsody, where everyone has their part)—dancing to the music at a concert with thousands of others—singing hymns at church with the others worshiping with you. That connection with others through music is real.


Humans are, by nature, social beings. Many believe that social interactions and relationships are fundamental human needs. We are made to depend on and interact with others from the moment we are born. We need someone to feed us and keep us safe as we learn to do so ourselves. As we grow, relationships begin to look different but continue to be necessary. Study after study has shown that solid social interactions decrease stress, improve health, extend life, and improve cognitive function.


Many of us were isolated from the outside world during the pandemic and disconnected from our social circles. Those first few weeks were tough on me. I missed seeing the people I loved; I felt alone even though I had people living with me. In those first days, weeks, and months I remember seeing videos of people singing together on their balconies or playing their instruments with windows open and sharing their gifts with those lucky enough to hear. Then concerts were live-streamedfrom musicians living rooms. There was an intimacy in those concerts that connected us all. We could virtually talk with other fans through the comments; musicians could see, in real-time, how their music was touching people who were feeling so alone.


I have always loved live music, but my anxiety often gets in the way of attending live, in-person events, so I skip concerts. Even concerts by my favorite artists. So as these virtual concerts started popping up on social media, I was excited. I had the opportunity to see the musicians I love perform live in my home. And I could message other fans, hear the artists respond to comments made, and even request songs. It felt like a small community developed in those short virtual events.


Throughout history, dancing and singing have helped develop large social networks. There are indications that as early as 2500 BC, Egyptians participated in a kind of dance to prepare them for battle. The Underground Railroad used songs to send coded messages to help enslaved people escape to freedom. In Hawaiian culture, Hula is used to tell stories and honor visitors. It has become a tradition in Ghana to have dancing pallbearers honoring the dead. And many of us sing Happy Birthday before cutting the cake at a birthday party. So, music and dance havebeen used for millennia to connect people as they prepare for war, fight for freedom, honor others, mourn the loss of a loved one, and celebrate happy occasions.


It is fascinating how cultures across time and space use music to create community—using dance to prepare for battle in one place and another to send a loved one into the afterlife—singingsongs to guide people to freedom and celebrate another year's passing. Music has been used to help create those essentialsocial connections that encourage mental well-being. It’s almost like humans were designed to use music to build communitiesand relationships.


Mental health impacts our society. When our collective mental well-being improves, we are all the better for it. So, if musicimproves our mental health and helps strengthen communities,and stronger communities mean improved mental and physicalhealth, could we argue that listening to music and especially together can heal society one note at a time?


I’d love to hear what you’re listening to, how you use music to connect with others, and other ways you are taking care of your mental health.


Check out these links for my sources.



About the Author:


Amanda Dolin is the creator of The Mental Society, a podcast, blog, resource list, and more. She spent over 20 years asking for help, looking for answers, and seeing six psychiatrists before receiving a diagnosis of bipolar that saved her life. She is passionate about removing the stigma and opening conversations around mental illness after her experience of looking for answers and feeling alone.


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