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How does it feel? Music Therapy and the myth of Blue Monday

Updated: Jan 22, 2019

Not just arguably the most iconic drumbeat of all time, the name Blue Monday has in recent years been ascribed to the third Monday in January as the most “depressed” Monday of the year. This year, the unfortunate title falls today, on Monday 21st January.

So why the name? Blue Monday was coined in 2005 by Dr. Cliff Arnall who wrote a press release for Sky Travel claiming he had worked out the level of general public depression on this particular Monday in the year using an algebraic formula.

Unfortunately for Dr. Arnall, his concept has since been debunked. The mental health charity Mind created a well-publicised campaign to change the name Blue Monday to #blueanyday. They said it had the potential to trivialise the concerns of people living with depression, experiencing symptoms everyday.

Alice* came to music therapy for a six-month period after reporting feelings of a low mood and not feeling motivated to complete everyday tasks. She liked the idea of using musical instruments to express herself creatively - she liked to paint in her spare time and was in touch with her creative side - but didn’t know how to play any of the musical instruments available during music therapy.

Coming to sessions and tentatively making sounds on the piano and percussion, Alice found an affinity with the xylophone, improvising patterns of sound but leaving long pauses between notes. It created a sense of the isolation she felt and the difficulty she expressed verbally in making sounds, making an impact outside of the therapy room.

It was not her therapist’s job to simply “fill in the gaps”. By listening carefully, her therapist could respond in a complementary way, both musically and emotionally: musically, Alice could hear that her therapist had found the pulse of Alice’s play and that the harmony of their notes for the most part fit together, creating the emotional effect for Alice that she was heard and understood. These small meetings inside the music meant Alice was able to talk in more depth about the roots of her depressive feelings between pieces.

Using music and words was the key that meant Alice could unlock her feelings. At the end of her time in music therapy, she expressed feelings of greater confidence and a deeper understanding of the emotional side of herself: “I feel like I can take on much more now and it won’t overwhelm me anything like it used to.”

North London Music Therapy specialises in treating people with depression or anxiety. Music Therapy is a psychological intervention that helps with:

- Self-awareness

- Emotional expression and understanding

- Confidence

- Managing anxiety and stress

- Understanding, developing and strengthening relationships

As a method which bypasses language (although verbal reflection is an important part of the work too), it provides the opportunity for someone to express themselves creatively without having to find the right words. For someone with depression, this is an invaluable tool.

To find out more about how Music Therapy can help you or someone you know, contact North London Music Therapy here.

*All names and identifying details have been changed

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