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How can we stay mentally healthy in quarantine?
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Making music can decrease anxiety and benefit mental health

Multiple studies show that playing or practicing an instrument can reduce anxiety and benefit mental health. Maybe it's time to bust out the recorder after all these years?

The Argument

It is unsettling to reckon with the fact that “social isolation is a cardiac risk factor” for humans, according to Harvard Medical Online. Yet, they claim that another fact is abundantly clear: Humans are inherently music-makers. In a time of global unrest, it seems most beneficial to take the initiative to create one’s own version of internal and external harmony.[1] According to the book Music, Health, and Wellbeing, making music is proven to engage our brains through both “a multisensory and motor network.” Since the brain is quite skillful at responding and adapting to external stimuli, it is unsurprising that the art of making music can actually treat brain disorders. Music-making acts like mental gymnastics for the mind: Among many other parts of the brain, it engages the cerebellum for motor coordination, the amygdala and hippocampus for emotional processing, and the frontal and parietal lobes for listening and imitation.[2] Harvard Medical claims that all ages benefit from the act of making music. Studies prove that older patients who regularly practice music show significantly less degeneration in their prefrontal cortex as compared to those who do not engage in music-making. If one practices music regularly, the development of Alzheimer’s is far less likely.[1] Music therapy is more common in recent years and according to a 1998 study, music making successfully served as a language for visually impaired children to socialize with each other.[3] Humans are naturally creative beings. Harvard makes sure to emphasize the advice our prized artists have repeated through time: that we are emotional, social beings and our health depends on the fulfillment of these innate behaviors. According to poet and playwright Robert Browning, “He who hears music feels his solitude people all at once.” Especially in quarantine, there is value in creating something that can’t help but elicit a sensation of togetherness.[1]

Counter arguments

A 2017 NBC article highlighted the very real chance that music can actually worsen one’s mood if used for indulgence in negativity.[4] Taking care of oneself in quarantine should get to the basics, anyway, says Healthline. Especially during a global pandemic, one does not need any more external stimulation to distract the brain. More important is focusing on establishing a lifestyle that promotes wellness. Healthline recommends exercising the body, managing caffeination levels, and maintaining connection with one’s community.[5] Although music can surely serve as a creative escape for many, we do live in a world focused on consistent productivity. In a time of strife, it seems beneficial to allow oneself to relax without the burden of churning out material or responsibility to immediately adopt a new skill, just because there is time to do so.[6] According to The Guardian, our culture of hyper-productivity is not conducive to strong mental health. Now that we are enduring a global quarantine, there is a heightened pressure to find a way to monetize the time we have been given. Yet, a pandemic inherently surfaces new distractions and new anxieties that impede our ability to stay focused or creative even if we wanted to be.[7]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Thursday, 25 Jun 2020 at 21:37 UTC

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