Any parent of a teen will tell you– concerns about mental health are no joke.
On top of the urge to conform, the hormonal surges, the increasing academic and extracurricular pressures, today’s teens face stressors their parents never had to deal with.
Social media, a global pandemic, anxiety around climate change– teens have a lot on their mind, and they don’t necessarily have the skills or coping mechanisms to deal with these stressors healthily.
As music educators, we’ve very attuned to the amazing mental and emotional effects of learning an instrument. We witness it every day in lessons with our students.
So of course, we were interested in a recent episode of The Huberman Lab that examines what our body goes through when we listen to and play music.
The podcast covers the role of music in boosting motivation for both cognitive and physical tasks, among other effects.
It inspired us to uncover more of how music lessons– or even just listening to music — could benefit our teen students, and the students we’ve yet to teach.
To note: music lessons cannot replace professional medical treatment. For more information on helping teens navigate this difficult terrain, check out the Helping Adolescents Thrive Toolkit published by the World Health Organization.
1. Immediate Stress Reduction
Teens need emotional expression to feel heard. Learning to play an instrument can be an ideal way to express feelings and pent-up tension. Like a good cry, playing music can evoke a much-needed, stress-zapping catharsis.
2. Enhanced Cognitive Development
Working out your brain muscles is important to stay mentally sharp. Learning and playing an instrument is a cognitive workout that could result in increased memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, as well as an increased attention span.
These characteristics come in handy when managing a hefty academic load.
3. Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence
Part of the teen struggle involves the desire to feel confident and capable. With the right dedication and mastery of an instrument or vocals, teens can practice overcoming challenges. A generous dose of self-esteem can permeate other areas, like social and school life.
Studying an instrument requires consistent practice. Consistently overcoming the challenges inherent in practice creates resilience. Resiliency increases confidence and self-esteem. Music lessons create a chain reaction of positive mental health outcomes!
5. Emotional Regulation
Playing music can not only help teens express emotions, but regulate them, too. Studies have shown that teenagers in music therapy have a better understanding of their emotions than their peers. More importantly, they develop skills to manage them. Especially when the teenage years become turbulent– and they will!– the ability to regulate emotions is critical.
Whether group or solo, music lessons create the community and belonging every teen craves.
The mentorship built with an awesome teacher can fuel a teen’s confidence to join a band or participate in a recital, which could help build up social skills lost during the pandemic.
Having an environment outside of school where they can rely on another trustworthy adult, and share a common interest with peers, is incredible for belonging.
Find what works for the individual
An amazing thing about music-study is there are so many options to choose from. Your teen can explore different instruments, genres or lesson formats until they find the right fit.
By providing a blend of structure and creativity, music lessons offer teens a valuable outlet to not only discover their musical preferences but also to improve their mental well-being in a way that resonates with them personally.
Curious to learn more benefits of music lessons? Check this out.