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Music and my Wellbeing

I want to introduce you to my one true love…

Music has always been a huge part of my life. As a child, I was inspired by the great big bands of the 1930’s/40’s (here’s looking at you Glenn Miller), and as I grew older, I shamelessly wanted to be like Lisa Simpson. When I started comprehensive school, I immediately signed up for saxophone lessons and threw myself into it. I progressed quickly, and at the age of 16, my dream was to become a Music Therapist after studying a music degree and a masters in Music Therapy. However, by the time I started looking at Universities I hit a fork in the road where I really questioned whether music was what I wanted to do as a career: was it my job, or was it my hobby? And if I did a music degree and couldn’t go into music therapy, what else would I do? I didn’t want to teach and I doubted that being a professional musician was right for me. At the same time, I had developed a passion for Psychology due to my A-Level studies, and I started thinking about careers in Psychology and mental health. This new passion grew stronger as I started to struggle with anxiety and I threw myself into my studies wanting to understand more about them.

One evening whilst applying for University open days, I was a mess, I didn’t know what to do in life and staring down both of these roads was terrifying. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I regretted my choices? My Dad took charge of the situation, searching for psychology and music joint honours degrees. These didn’t really exist at the time, so he didn’t find that, but what he found instead was a University advertising a music scholarship programme, and a bio from a woman who had attended the University to study psychology whilst taking part in the music scholarship. It allowed her to continue to grow musically whilst studying Psychology academically. And the rest, as they say, is history. I attended that University, won a scholarship, and I was immersed in both psychology and music everyday.

Bet you didn’t think you’d be getting my life story today, did you?! People often say I talk too much, but I think it’s important for you to see my journey with music before I talk about wellbeing. I love Psychology and the job I do, but music will always be my true love. Even now that I don’t get the chance to play and perform as much as I’d like, music is still my go-to during difficulties in life. When my grandmother passed away last year, I picked up my sax. When the lockdown was announced in the UK, I picked up my sax. It’s my comfort in times of difficulty, and whenever I’m musical (playing, singing, listening, composing) I get an immediate boost in my mood which is visible to people around me.

So what does this have to do with wellbeing? There’s so much I could write about here, but I’m going to try and keep it simple. When I’m engaged in music (listening to it, playing it, composing it), I’m totally engrossed in the moment, I’m in that flow state where hours can go by and I’ll have no idea. It doesn’t matter what is happening in my life, when it’s just me and my sax that’s all I think about. When I’m engaged in music, I’m being creative, learning new things, setting goals, giving myself a sense of purpose. All of those things are hugely important for wellbeing. In difficult times such as this COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, we often see people turning to the arts as a way of coping: watching TV and films more, engaging in crafts, etc. You don’t need to be a “musician” to enjoy music: listening to music can also be extremely beneficial. Singing at the top of your lungs to a song you love, even if you are “tone deaf”, can be a wonderful experience. I’m a great believer that anyone can and should engage with music, no matter their level of ability. But hey, if you want to take the opportunity to learn how to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to during lockdown, you absolutely should go for it. I have never regretted signing up for those first saxophone lessons, and I know that wherever I go in life and whatever happens to me, music will always be there for me whenever I need to come home.

By Bethan Jones

Course Wellbeing Practitioner