14 Reasons Why Learning Guitar Helps With Depression

For many years I have suffered from depression and anxiety and about 2 years ago I came off the medication (prozac) I was using and have been off them ever since. Part of keeping off medication for me is about keeping busy and challenging your brain.

Keeping busy with a project or hobby helps enormously with this and I find provides a sense of purpose and focus. Part of the reason I started this blog was to help with my depression and the joy and captivation I get from learning guitar is extraordinary.

I don’t think these reasons below are exclusive to guitar, they could equally apply to another instrument, but they are partly my experience and partly others so I feel compelled to share them.

In my video I talk about some of these reasons, but if you want to find out more then read further below.

1. Distraction

When I was deep in the wallow of the darkness that depression brings, nothing felt it could drag me out of it and being overwhelmed with life was a constant feeling. Eventually I took small steps, leaving the house was a big step at first but over time doing it every day it got a little easier.

Learning guitar in the privacy of your own home and at your own pace with no pressure, strips down the learning process entirely. You focus in on the task, you are absorbed by it, you don’t have to play for hours. You can pick up the guitar for five minutes and try to learn something new and it can take you somewhere else. The focus it requires helps clears the dark clouds even if it is just for five minutes.

2. Healthy Habit

The distraction that learning guitar brings when you are in depression makes it almost an enjoyable feeling. I say almost as when my depression hit nothing was really enjoyable but maybe it takes you to a ‘level plain’ one with no high or low roads. If guitar can give you this and you do it every day, then you are escaping for a period of time.

It becomes something you don’t mind doing because it gives you that escape and in turn you do it more regularly. The more regularly you do it the more likely you are to create a habit. It is a healthy habit to have also. Not only are you occupying your whirlwind of a mind but you are building a small foundation of self worth anchored to an instrument that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment.

3. Small Challenges

During a strong wave of depression it often felt that I was incapable of literally everything and why did i even bother as I had no value, nothing to offer. What I wasn’t really aware of until later however was that the small steps that I took later on, like leaving the house, walking to the shop and back were the exact steps that began my road to clarity.

It wasn’t instant but every step helped. Learning the guitar is the same, you have small challenges every day. These small challenges are easy to overcome at the start and this is when you start to build some self worth.

Life is about overcoming challenges, often just small inconsequential ones, but with depression you forget how to cope and deal with them. Being able to play guitar on your own in your own home  and face these challenges with no pressure and overcome them is gold.

Just by doing this for a small amount of time everyday you are slowly beginning to rebuild your coping mechanisms. Your ability to overcome these challenges went unnoticed for me at first but they were exactly what I needed to start my life rebuild.

4. You Don’t Have To Leave Your House

Leaving the house never even entered my mind, if it was mentioned by my wife then anxiety would set it if I wasn’t prepared. I had to build up to leaving the house, any kind of interaction or more to the point any though of interaction instantly filled me with dread.

House, apartment, couch, wherever you live there are sources of guitar learning online that mean you don’t have to even leave your building to start learning. Skip the multitude of guitar internet marketer review sites and instead join the free Justin Guitar beginner course. Start there and take baby steps that is all you need to do.

5. Social Ability

The thought of having to talk to close family filled me with anxiety, I wanted to avoid it at all costs. So the idea of meeting up with someone outside my own home was a complete no no.

However what guitar teaches you is that you can have a common interest. It might not come in to any conversation for you for a long time because you struggle to connect with others. When it does it can connect you, to those that play, to those that want to play and are interested in your journey.

Whatever it may be to you, it will be a talking point and one that if you have taken a few weeks to get stuck into, one that you will enjoy talking about.

6. Lifelong Hobby

Learning the guitar is a journey and I am just at the start, I will be tracking my progress here on this blog, you can check out how I am doing right here on my YouTube channel. I do it for fun, the feeling of accomplishment, to keep the black dog from the door and because I enjoy it.

They call learning guitar a ‘journey’ or even an ‘odyssey’ because there are so many facets to learn if you so wish. The routes you can take are wide and varied and the journey is personal to you.

Run your own race and enjoy the long and winding road that guitar will gift you with.

7. Something Personal

Every good story has a struggle in it. Some of my favorite films have been sporting dramas about extreme odds and overcoming them or motivational stories of grit and determination in the face of prejudice and bigotry.

In short I like an underdog, someone they never saw coming, someone they never expected to do the things they did.

Learning the guitar might not win you a cup but what it will do is give you something that is yours. A personal journey, one that you will own and you can build upon, something that you can be thankful and have gratitude for and gives you a sense of worth.

Building self worth and not letting life beat you down is how winning is done, just listen to Rocky

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Rocky Balboa

8. Outlet of Expression

Playing guitar is an outlet for creativity. Learning guitar provides the blocks for rebuilding your ability to cope with challenges. Once you have some skill under your belt it can also be a font of expression.

Writing songs and exploring your feeling when you are depressed does not always end well in a temporary sense. It can overwhelm you in the short term but it can also provide reflection and understanding of the feelings that you have and can’t seem to shake.

I am not at this point in my learning and will likely be a long time before I am but I look forward to this. Being able to create something that has come direct from me. It might disturb people, it might make others think I am a narcissistic lunatic, (likely confirmed when they hear me sing) but it will be mine, it will be me.

9. Validation of Your Capability

Depression severely knocks your confidence and the feeling of having an ability to bounce back is often lost.

Learning the guitar and taking it step by step provides validation to your life. It says ‘You are capable’, you have learnt something through your own discipline and motivation and have earned an ability that you previously did not have.

This kind of validation is what many people seek in their lives so by learning guitar and sticking to it you are validating your own capability.

10. Learning an Instrument Is A Proven Antidepressant

This article on live science serves to show that learning an instrument may be more capable of lifting people out of depression than anti depressants.

They recruited 79 people with a diagnosis of depression. Thirty three were given regular therapy plus 20 biweekly sessions with a music therapis. All the other participants attended the regular therapy only.

It was found after three months that those who had the music sessions showed fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms and higher functioning in their daily lives than those who only had the regular therapy.

11. Exploring Emotions

During my bouts of depression I never have felt the urge to verbally explode and tell anyone what is in my head. In fact it is the opposite, I usually just want to avoid any interaction and keep chat to zero.

This doesn’t make it easy for others to understand you and what you are going through. It also means that you aren’t talking about your emotions and feeling which is part of the path to recovery.

Learning to play guitar provides you with the ability to get in touch with your emotions without verbal communication. You can explore them in a form of self therapy with no fear of judgment.

12. Stimulate Your Senses

Depression is extremely self absorbing, you can’t think past your own deep well of pain. It numbs your senses and dulls your emotions and kills of any motivation we may have.

Learning guitar will help stimulate your senses and improve your ability to hear music.  The stimulation even just from playing for a short period every day will help remove some of the negativity that clogs your brain.

13. Building A New Identity

Developing a skill gives you confidence and when you have depression this invaluable. However the long term effect of learning and playing guitar is that it becomes part of who you are.

A guitar can help you build a new identity, something that you can associate with and something that you can depend on as a badge of honour. It can be a proven track record, a confidence building personal history that you can draw strength from.

14. A New Career

Developing a skill that helps bring you out of the doldrums of depression and provides you with so much self worth can fuel your life.

If guitar has provided for you in this way it can give you a new lease of life and help you explore another way of earning a living or choosing to live. You may seek out a career in music and the new passion that you have developed may be just the ticket to get you a new job or spur you to create a music blog. So if you want to get started, buy a decent guitar and start the Just Guitar Beginner Course.

Has guitar had an impact on your life or on anyone else’s you know? let me know how in the comments below.

Luke Winter

I'm Luke, the owner of this site, and I started learning guitar in 2019 online. I documented all my progress on YouTube and created this website to help others wanting to learn guitar online later in life. Find out more about me, what gear I use, or just get in contact by clicking on my image next to this bio.

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