People pick up a guitar for all kinds of reasons, but one that few people are actually aware of is the massive boost it can provide to your mental health.
Nowadays, learning the guitar has never been easier. YouTube is of course full of guitar lessons, and sites like KillerGuitarRigs.com have a ton of resources to help you learn, so there’s really no reason not to pick up a guitar and learn to play.
As for reasons to pick up a guitar? Here’s eight that should make it an easy decision.
All the benefits of music therapy
As the saying goes, “music soothes the savage beast”. More and more institutions are turning to music therapy, from schools to hospitals to prisons. While nobody knows why, the results are clear and documented – playing and listening to music helps people to manage stress, improve their communication and motor skills, enhance their memory, and generally help them to feel better able to cope with life.
Good for blood pressure
A study in the Netherlands focused on the effects of music therapy on blood pressure, specifically for guitarists. Researchers followed three aspiring guitarists who spent over 100 minutes a day practicing their instrument, and found they had a significant drop in blood pressure and a lower resting heart rate compared to those who didn’t.
Of course, as a beginner or even someone with a busy life, you don’t need to spend a full 100 minutes each day to see the benefit, but even 100 minutes a week will give you improved heart function and put you at less risk for heart related diseases.
Stretch your creative muscles
While this isn’t unique to guitar, it is the most popular instrument that is easy to play – which means that for millions who only have a passable level of proficiency, the guitar is a great way to express your own creativity.
There are obvious and less obvious benefits of being creative – the obvious is that it’s a good emotional output, it’s good for self esteem, and it is an opportunity to feel you’re expressing yourself. However, some of the less obvious benefits are arguably greater – being creative on an instrument helps to train our brains to be creative in more logical scenarios as well, such as problem solving at work or in other areas of our lives.
If you’re trying to crack something like an essay or something at work that’s really giving you trouble – picking up a guitar for ten minutes before going back to the problem can open up that creative space in our brains and help us go back to our work with a new creative approach to solving problems.
Boost your brain function
Studies show that learning to play the guitar (and other instruments) increases the volume of grey matter in various regions of the brain, strengthens the long range connections between regions of the brain, and creates cross connections between the artistic right brain and the analytical left brain.
This isn’t just good for you in the short term – such brain improvements can be of huge benefit in later life when brain function decline is an acute risk.
Improve and extend your social circle
Nobody’s going to argue that spending time with others is anything but a net positive in our lives, and the good thing about the guitar is it’s an instrument that’s tailor made for playing with others. Getting out, joining a band or even playing solo shows gives you an extended social circle, and the people you encounter will help you with all of the music therapy benefits we discussed.
Provides an outlet
This is a great one for the introverts, the people who feel like it’s hard to express themselves in words. Instead, you can pick up a guitar and use the notes to express feelings of sadness, anger and sorrow that you might not feel comfortable talking about.
In addition, if you decide to pair lyrics with your music, you have an additional outlet, not just for creativity, but a way to express your feelings or frame what’s on your mind in a way that you’re comfortable sharing with others.
Provides a confidence boost
There are two confidence boosts with playing the guitar. As you learn and practice, you’ll find your playing improving, which will give you an immediate confidence boost in your own abilities to try new things and do well at them.
In addition, there is the short term confidence boost of playing the guitar for others and having them react positively. So many musicians talk about “the roar of the crowd” – that’s a confidence boost people spend their whole lives chasing.
Makes you feel a part of something
Really the best thing you can do for your mental health is have an elevated connection to other people. Music is one of the most popular hobbies, and when you learn to play an instrument, you become part of a global community of musicians. You take on a new appreciation for music, and you start to see other musicians not as rock stars but as peers. Being part of the music community gives you an instant way to talk to others, an instant connection, and that can help a person feel more comfortable in any situation.