Nurturing Mental Health in Your Music Journey
Making music is rewarding, making it in the music industry is another story. And while it’s not impossible to go far in your music career, taking care of your mental health along the way is so important.
But, the realities of being an artist today are daunting.
Music is saturated with so much competition, it’s easy to start comparing yourself or feel as though you’re not doing enough.
Artists often feel the need to be constantly online, posting on social media, producing visual content, all while writing music and keeping their sound fresh.
Add the challenges presented by touring schedules or the financial demands that music production makes like studio space, gear and living expenses and it’s pretty clear why artists are at risk of stress-related burnout.
It is possible to find success, with hard work and dedication you can make it. But, if you want to truly enjoy your successes you also need to maintain your mental health along the journey.
Let’s explore some pitfalls and practices to keep in mind as you go through your journey as an artist.
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The mental strain of perfectionism
Perfectionism can be both a motivating companion and a relentless critic.
The drive to craft a flawless melody is exhilarating, yet the unending pursuit can morph into an oppressive force.
It’s essential to acknowledge this strain and foster a compassionate dialogue with oneself.
It’s about appreciating the progress, the learning embedded in every ‘imperfect’ tune, and the journey that each note encapsulates.
Mindfulness and music
Mindfulness, or the practice of being present, can drown the cacophony of anxious thoughts.
It’s about immersing in the moment, feeling the essence of every note, and appreciating the narrative that music unfolds.
This practice isn’t about ignoring the realities but embracing the calm amidst the chaos, a skill invaluable for every artist navigating the turbulent waters of creativity.
Here’s a few ways artists can practice mindfulness.
1. Bring mindfulness into your practice routine
Practicing your instrument, or learning an instrument if you’re just getting started has many benefits. You can broaden your repertoire, learn new skills and discover new genres.
Plus, having playing skills on an instrument will make you that much more confident in the studio and make it possible to play live.
Practicing an instrument doesn’t have to be stressful. Learning new techniques or foreign pieces can be taxing, but not every part of your practice routine needs to be stressful.
Make time in your practice routine to just play around.
Anyone can do this, just take two or three chords you know how to play and just play them, listen to their sound, focus on the tone, really feel the notes and listen to them.
There’s a reason why bells and gongs are so important in ancient mindfulness traditions, and why ambient music is a common sound people listen to when meditating.
So take a moment, dial up the reverb, play a chord and calmly listen to it.
2. Quiet times and breathwork
Adopting a simple meditation practice is a great way to uncover what’s going on in your inner self.
For songwriters, periods of silence are so important for unearthing hidden melodies and lyrics in the mind’s eye.
In general, learning breathing techniques and adopting meditation practice is scientifically proven to help manage stress and anxiety.
3. Active listening
Most of the listening we do today is passive. Anytime you listen to music while doing something else like driving or cooking, you’re not actively listening to it.
Sure, you’ll notice parts of the music and you’ll have a general idea of what’s happening the song, especially if you’re familiar with tune and like the music.
But rarely do people sit down with their headphones on and do nothing but actively listen to music in its entirety without distraction.
There’s nothing wrong with passive listening of course, but active listening is something musical artists should think about doing.
For one, it’s not vastly different from having a mindfulness moment since you’re working on clearing your mind and focusing on one thing.
But also, actively listening to music can help inspire you and unearth the subtleties that music sounds good (or not).
4. Move your body
Too often music production can be a sedentary activity. Producers might be sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time, not standing or moving around.
And while playing an instrument can get the body moving, it’s important to take time to get some form of physical activity in on a regular basis.
Personally, I’m a huge runner, I love going for a 20-30 minute jog a few times a week. But, not everyone has to do that.
Going for a 15-20 minute neighborhood walk or stretch session can do wonders for your mental health and ensure you get your steps in.
Not to mention, that exercising is a great time to discover new music, check your mixes out and keep you inspired.
Coping with criticism
Criticism is a word that often comes laden with a certain heaviness. Yet, it’s an inevitable companion in an artist’s journey.
Navigating through feedback, especially when it hits a discordant note, requires a blend of grace and grit.
It’s about sifting through the words, holding onto what aids in growth, and letting go of negativity with a spirit of understanding and self-compassion.
Be kind to yourself
Chances are that you’re your own worst critic.
So, pay attention to your thoughts and do your best to back down if your self-critiques are becoming too harsh or negative.
If you’re not happy about how a release was received don’t dwell on it—you have the power to control what your next sound will be like, so focus on the next song.
Don’t focus on who you’re not
The dream of becoming a famous, critically acclaimed artist with a massive following and a glamorous lifestyle is a common one for many musicians and producers.
But, the truth is most successful musicians don’t blow up overnight, even if it seems like they did it can take a lifetime of hard work to achieve high success.
Rather, it’s better to measure success in different ways. There’s many milestones along the way to celebrate—a single or album release, playing a show, opening for an act you respect, or getting attention from industry insiders.
If you start being frustrated with the success of others or artists getting breakthroughs that you didn’t, you’re merely feeding a jaded and pessimistic attitude
It’s never a bad idea to see how far you’ve come. But, even if you’re just getting started, don’t get caught up with comparing yourself to others, instead focus on…
The power of community
The road of music creation, though solitary at times, thrives on the camaraderie of like-minded souls.
Building connections, sharing the struggles, and celebrating the small victories together can be a balm for the weary artist’s soul.
A supportive community is not just about collective music-making; it’s a sanctuary of understanding and empathy amidst the at-times tumultuous journey of being a musician.
Music, life, and mental Health
The equilibrium between personal life, music, and mental wellness is delicate.
The tug and pull can either play a harmonious tune or lead to a discord.
Setting realistic goals, carving out time for self-reflection, and embracing the essence of balance can pave the way for a fulfilling musical journey, both for the mind and the soul.
Find a balance, stay healthy
The narrative of music paired with mental wellness is profound.
Each note struck, each melody created, resonates with the state of the artist’s mind. Nurturing mental health is not just an act of self-compassion, but a tribute to the art of music itself.
As the journey unfolds, may the melody of mental wellness play a gentle, reassuring tune, guiding the way through the highs and lows of the musical voyage.
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