4. It can future-proof your brain
We’ve all seen those stats about brain decline in later life, but did you know that playing guitar can boost your grey matter? Early brain scan studies show that learning to play the guitar, among other musical instruments, not only increases grey matter volume in various regions of the brain, but it strengthens the long-range connections between them.
Sharper brain function can also help protect you against mental decline in your later years. As an added bonus, a dual study conducted by the Mind-Body Wellness Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems shows that playing guitar can also reduce stress. André Axell of The Great Discord certainly feels this: “A shitty day can get significantly better just by sitting down, plugging in and getting lost for a while.”
Paul McManus of Music For All also believes in the future-proofing benefits of playing guitar. “We see more and more people either returning to playing music in later life or even starting for the first time. Making music is a great ‘anti-ageing’ tool as it helps with coordination, concentration and memory.”
5. Playing guitar strengthens your support network…
…if you play in a band or jam regularly with other people. Don’t underestimate how much of a wellness boost you can get from being around like-minded people. Playing guitar with others can also, in time, lead to new friendships and a richer social life.
Rachel Boyd, Information Manager for mental health charity Mind, says that, “Music can also be something we share with friends and family. Social activities can be good for our wellbeing in general, and can strengthen our support networks. Getting together with others who share a passion for music can be a great way to connect, whether that’s listening to music, studying, discussing or playing it.”
6. It enables you to express your feelings
We all have those moments when it’s hard to verbally express our feelings, but many guitarists find it easier to show their emotion, to process their feelings and to feel truly heard through playing the guitar. Kirk Windstein of Crowbar is one such guitarist: “I run through a lot of emotions while playing guitar. It’s a perfect vehicle for letting out my feelings,” he tell us. “While playing, I often feel my aggression, my sadness and any anxiety leaving my mind and body.”
For some of you, playing the guitar might be a hugely cathartic way to communicate your views, your feelings, passions and fears… Distilling it all into a haunting guitar riff, a blistering solo or a few simple chords – and in a way you might never be able to with words. Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy finds resonance with this: “I’ve always been a fairly shy person in general and one that doesn’t talk that much… So guitar playing has always been a way I can express myself to others.”
Tweet it: ‘Playing guitar helps me express myself #WGD17 #worldguitarday’
7. Playing guitar boosts your confidence
Learning to play the guitar can have an enormously positive effect on your self-esteem and confidence. As you learn to play, and continue to improve, chances are you’ll end up playing in front of a family member, a mate, some potential bandmates or even an audience.
Playing guitar in front of others, however scary at first, will build your confidence in expressing yourself publicly and sharing your creativity. This can help you in a study or work context, too, as playing guitar to others inadvertently teaches you ‘presentation skills’, including how to speak to a crowd – even if it is just your mum to begin with.
Ultimately, the more you improve at playing guitar the bigger the gains to your self-esteem and confidence. That in turn will give you an increased sense of satisfaction, helping you to feel good about yourself; an important ally in the war against mental health.
8. It helps you to feel part of something bigger
As we now know, there are several ways in which playing the guitar can improve your mental health and overall wellbeing. But perhaps the greatest way is how it connects us to each other. Paul McManus of Music For All has first-hand experience of how the guitar can be a gateway to helping all of us feel connected to something bigger: “One of the great powers of making music is that it brings people together. Music knows no barriers.”
It doesn’t matter where in the world you are playing guitar right now. Whether you’re playing alone or with other musicians, know that you are part of a family. One that understands the transformational power of the guitar.
Join us in celebrating World Guitar Day 2017! Get playing, and share your best guitar videos, pictures, tips and stories with hashtags #WGD17 #worldguitarday