Learning a Musical Instrument Can Help with Childh
Health

Learning a Musical Instrument Can Help with Childhood Anxiety

As we continue to move forward as a society when it comes to talking about and dealing with mental health issues we are able to look at issues across all age ranges. For a long time the feeling that only adults were capable of having serious mental health issues was propped up by the “ they are just kids, they will be fine” mentality. Thankfully now we are able to recognise the early signs of anxiety and other problems in young children which may well allow us to prevent them being carried into adulthood. One thing that has been recently shown to help children is learning a musical instrument and it could well be a very important realisation for us all.

What Happens in the Brain with Anxiety

This is a complex issue and this article really cannot attempt to go through all of the points. However, it suffices to say that some of the cortices in the brain vary in thickness in people who are prone to mental health problems like anxiety actually change in thickness. The research is wide-ranging and often complex  – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28436445 but it is this change in the thickness of a certain cortex that may be a causal effect.

Learning an Instrument

Research published a couple of years ago analysed the brain activity in children between the ages of 6 and 18 years old and found that playing music actively altered certain areas of the brain. It may not come as a surprise playing or listening to music alters the brain activity. Most people who enjoy music would certainly agree that it can change a mood and help with negative feelings but anxiety and depressions are much more than just moods.

Learning a Musical Instrument Can Help with Childh

Practice Makes Perfect

It seems that the actual act of practising an instrument can have a more profound impact than just changes in activity. The research showed that it can directly influence the thickness of a cortex associated with working memory, attention control and much more. The bottom line is that actively learning an instrument seems to change the structure of the brain in such a way that it may actually begin to mitigate the effects of depression, anxiety, ADHD and more.

Music is my Medicine

One Author of a study around this called James Hudziak said he felt that helping a child learn the violin might be a more effective solution than medication. This is a bold statement but the evidence certainly suggests there is a lot of room for more research into this area.

How to Learn

There is, of course, lots of issues around getting a child to take up an instrument, especially if they have attention issues, anxiety or depression. They may simply just not want to do it. Forcing the point may well cause more stress than it may prevent so this has to be approached carefully. Professional private tutors are often the best way to go if the child has special emotional needs. Most areas will have companies like www.discoverandbe.com who have years of experience teaching kids in a fun and positive way. It is important to read reviews and find one that will suit your child. But, schools should not be forgotten here. A good school music programme may well be just what a child may need. If they then show real enjoyment it is something that can be moved into private 1 to 1 tuition at a later date.

What About Adults?

Well, there is no shortage of grownups with varying degrees of mental health problems, in fact, most people will suffer some kind of issue in their lives. Although there is less evidence of brain alteration in adults when learning there is a lot of evidence that the focus, pleasure and personal time involved can be very helpful to suffering adults. Music has long been a channel for famous and not so famous musicians to pour their heart out into and this stands for us normal folk too!

Learning Together

The two can also be combined; learning an instrument alongside a child with mental health issues can really bring a fresh bond, a new level of support and a lot of pleasure to a family.

The bottom line is that listening to music is good but learning it is better! Whether it is through physical alterations in the brain or just a useful focus and a shared experience taking up an instrument can only be a good thing…unless perhaps you want to play drums and you live in a flat!

*This is a collaborative post.

This article has 70 comments

  1. Samantha Donnelly

    What a great post, musical instruments are great for children to learn, although I have to admit I wanted to run and hide when my daughter brought home a recorder. She did have music lessons but gave them up when she changed schools. My Granddaughter is off to a good start at 1 month old already has a baby drum 🙂

  2. Amber Myers

    I took piano as a kid and enjoyed it when I was small and hated it as a teenager.

    My daughter is currently taking violin and seems to enjoy it!

  3. Jeanette

    My son’s school requires them to learn an instrument. I’m gonna let him choose what you want but if it was up to me it would be the trumpet because I played that. I think it’s a wonderful idea for kids to learn about music.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      Oh wow that is amazing, my primary school only had a few slots for every year, I remember sitting with all the people who wanted to play the violin as I had missed out on the piano and we had to go through all sorts of tests, I remember she ruled out some people as they weren’t double joined in their fingers?! It was very odd looking back on it now lol.

  4. candy

    Non of our children was interested in learning how to play any kind of instrument. Really wish they had. I always wanted to play the piano.

  5. Jenny Finney

    I would agree that music can change one’s mood. I love listening to music and I have recently bought my 1 year old grandson several musical instrument toys. He loves them! It’s great that music and learning to play an instrument, can help with anxiety and ADHD

  6. Margaret Gallagher

    So beneficial on do many levels for any age

    Glad to see that thiscis now being recognised

  7. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh

    I had no idea that instruments could help with anxiety!! I would have totally had my oldest daughter take lessons.

  8. Patrick

    Great post Sarah….did you know music also is very helpful when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients as well? I know first hand that it works,I put on music for my mother-in-law and helped settle her down. I always have music on when I’m writing my blog…good music is good medicine.

  9. Ashley

    I had no idea this helps with childhood anxiety. I need to recommend this to a friend, I think her own could benefit from guitar lessons.

  10. Rhian Westbury

    I think learning an instrument is such a good way of escaping as music is such a great thing. I learnt the clarinet when I was younger and if I had the time I’d definitely learn to play the guitar x

  11. Emily

    I have always known there was a benefit to kids playing a musical instrument but I never knew there was so much! My daughter plays the viola and my son plays the acoustic guitar, they love them so much! My youngest bangs on drums but does not take it seriously, he just likes to make noise. 🙂

  12. Pam

    I had no idea that learning to play an instrument was so beneficial for kids. I learned how to play the piano.

  13. Elizabeth

    Learning a musical instrument is such a great thing to do at any age, I think. I had no idea it helps with childhood anxiety though – that’s really good to know!

  14. kirsty

    I always knew that music lifted and helps improve your mood but I never understood the science behind it until now. I loved learning piano and guitar as a teenager as it really helped me and I would want my daughter to learn a instrument not only as a skill to have but so she can feel happy as well.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      It is something so uplifting isn’t it I think as long as there is no pressure as the only time I hated it was when I was taking my certificates yuck!

  15. Kara

    Isaac had guitar lessons for a year but has chosen to give up which I am sad about. He wants to learn the drums now

  16. Rebecca Smith

    This is very interesting and something I will bear in mind. I would even say that learning a sport can help too – maybe it is the learning process. Jack sometimes gets a little anxious but since he started football training and golf lessons, the anxiety seems to have all but disappeared.

  17. Melanie

    Wow how interesting is this. Music as medicine. The James Hudziak research replace medication with violin play is food for thought x

  18. Tim B

    Some interesting stuff to think about here. My son has been wanting to take guitar lessons and I’ve always wanted to learn but never have. Been thinking of having us take lessons together. This post has provides some extra incentive to consider doing that.

  19. Chubskulit Rose

    This depends on the child. It helped my daughter tremendously, whenever she is nervous, she go to our piano and play and her stress goes away. It’s a different story with our son, however, he love to sing and that’s how he manages stress as well.

  20. Bethel

    although i am not inclined to music, i remember my brother going thru psychological problems and my sister bought him a guitar. That helped him recover fast

  21. Jenn @ EngineerMommy

    I learned the piano as a kid and it was such a wonderful experience. Now my daughters are interested in it too. I might sign them up for classes.

  22. hannah

    Music is a great thing. I had no idea learning an instrument can help anxiety

  23. Sara Welch

    Anxiety or not, learning an instrument is an amazing life skill. This is yet another reason to do so!

  24. Vanessa Palma

    I took piano and dance lessons as a child and loved every minute. My kids also take piano and I think it’s great for them to establish good habits with practicing.

  25. Cheryl

    My son started playing the sax a couple of years ago and it’s been great for him. My strategy was starting my blog.

  26. rosemary palmer

    I guess my thought is maybe it can help with anxiety unless they are being forced into lessons or have trouble learning, then there’s that anxiety.

  27. Nikka Shae

    I would so agree, music soothes the mind. I know when I get stressed I love to listen to my music.

  28. Shoshana Sue

    I absolutely agree that children with emotional needs shouldn’t be forced and I am so glad to hear that there are places with professional tutors who offer the service to such children

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      It is great isn’t it – I used to love art therapy when I was allowed to just get on and show my feelings how I wanted. It was the only type that worked for me.

  29. Our Family World

    Thank you for this post. It made me remember when I was a child, I always wanted to learn to play the guitar, just like my older brother. However, my parents told me that “guitars are for boys.” So they made me take piano lessons instead. I did not like it one bit, but what can a 6 year old do? That gave me anxiety and piano recitals made me so nervous. I learned a lot from that and I did not force any of my children to pick up a musical instrument unless they explicitly asked.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      I always wanted to play the piano, but they ran out of room so I ended up playing the violin instead and keep it up for many years, only stopped really when I went into hospital. Later learned the guitar for a while but not as much as I did the violin, music definitely is therapeutic.

  30. Violet

    I have to admit even musical instruments have helped me with my anxiety. Nothing beats picking up the guitar and having a little sing along if a stressful/rough day! Does wonders for the soul.

    Violet

  31. Chiswick Mum

    Great post – I think music is fundamental to good mental health and low stress living. And I think that’s true whatever your age, although giving a child the gift of music is one of the best gifts you can give them. I absolutely agree that learning an instrument with a child is an amazing way to bond and share a journey.

  32. Rachel

    This is so interesting. I’m familiar with art therapy but not so much learning an instrument. I suppose I hadn’t considered it because I always found my own music lessons so stressful ?

  33. Jenni

    This is a fab post. My partners mum used to say music makes you happy and it is so true. My 2 year old loves singing and plays around with various instruments so I will definitely be encouraging this as he grows older x

  34. Laura H

    What I would add is that the child has to want to learn the instrument… I was forced into playing the piano for over 10 years and did not enjoy it. Looking back now, I’m quite thankful I had the opportunity to learn an instrument thoroughly but at the time it probably had the opposite effect on childhood anxiety.

  35. Lubka Henry

    I haven’t thought of it like this, but it is true. When I was little my mum signed me up for piano classes and I carried on for 4 years. It helped me a lot to concentrate and even perform in front of a public.

  36. Ana De- Jesus

    I had never played a musical instrument but I do agree that music in general can help childhood anxiety. I used to do musical theatre productions, where I would sing, act and dance and even though I was not comfortable with attention I did find that it did help me feel more confident and in control. I can imagine it being the same with musical instruments as well.

  37. Anosa Malanga

    I agree with this. I have seen so many people (colleague, friend and relatives) who were able to use music as their outlet. I myself, makes music as one of my stress reliever. Also my cousins kid who has an attention disorder used music as her medicine.

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