I have struggled with depression throughout much of my adult life, beginning with an episode as a university student at the age of 18. It wasn’t until I was 47, and in an acute mental health setting, that I was diagnosed with bipolar. I am now 50, but continue to battle on a daily basis with depression.
What I’ve found along the way is that there are only very few practical tools available to help fight depression. One that I’ve discovered for myself is singing.
The approach I’ve taken is to find a song I really like and then learn the words by downloading the lyrics to my phone, and then listen to the song over and over until I’ve learnt it off by heart. I then sing the song aloud to myself whenever I have the opportunity, whether it be while walking, in the shower, driving or doing the dishes. I’ve listed some songs that have provided me with joy below. I tend to choose songs that have uplifting lyrics.
By no means am I saying that singing ‘cures’ depression. That is not possible. What singing does do is provide relief from the dark cloud or the black dog, that constant companion that depression is. By learning the song and then singing it, I’ve found that it has taken my mind away depression by giving me something else to focus on. I love learning a new song.
There is research out of Europe that shows that singing in groups is beneficial to mental health. But you don’t have to be in a group to benefit from singing. As Jeremy Dion (The Art of Mindful Singing) wrote: “It’s a fact: singing is healthy, regardless of how we think it sounds. Singing familiar songs we know and love connects us to our bodies and emotions in ways that words alone can never do”.
So, it doesn’t matter what you think you sound like, so long as you sing. I often hear people say “I can’t sing”, but that is not true. Everyone can sing in their own way. If you are singing for yourself then what other people think of your singing doesn’t matter anyway.
The challenge I’ve found is that when I am in the grip of depression, I don’t feel like singing. So even though I know that I’ll feel better if I sing, if I’m really feeling down then I won’t sing. That is one thing I’ve found with depression is that it can take you away from those things you enjoy – don’t let it take you away from singing!
Here are some of my favourite songs:
Try A Little Kindness by Glen Campbell
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by B J Thomas
Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff
Imagine by John Lennon
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
Blue Skies by Willie Nelson
He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother by The Hollies
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