Songs for Sound Minds #29 – ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson
The latest choice for the #SongsForSoundMinds playlist encourages us to have a good look at ourselves and our motivations.
Are we the nice, thoughtful person we imagine ourselves to be or do we spend most of our time looking after number one? As we’ll see, this is not just a philosophical rumination for – quite paradoxically – being kind to others can have acknowledged benefits for our own mental health.
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
At the peak of his ‘King of Pop’ powers, Michael Jackson continued a very long string of hit records with his early 1988 release, Man in the Mirror. This was one of a remarkable nine singles on his multi-million selling album, ‘Bad.’
The track starts with Jackson in a philosophical mood: ‘wind is blowing my mind’ (as Bob Dylan might have said) and this is opening his eyes to ‘kids in the street, with nothing to eat’ and ‘some with no home, not a nickel to loan.’ He realises there is a need for things to change and, because he’s been selfish, he needs to start with himself.
In the chorus, Jackson encourages us to look into the mirror ourselves: ‘If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.’ This sentiment paraphrases Mahatma Gandhi’s well-known maxim: ‘be the change that you want to see in the world.’
We, too, are encouraged to start with ourselves and, indeed, the official video for the song includes clips of Gandhi as well as Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. All of these people put their own needs to one side in order to support the advancement of others.
The benefits of altruism
So, what is the benefit of this altruistic attitude encouraged by Man in the Mirror? According to an article in The Independent committing an act of kindness releases certain ‘feel good’ chemicals into the body. Dopamine, which is associated with positive thinking, and Oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone’ are released as a result of a selfless act.
As it turns out being good to others can have a positive impact on our blood pressure and general mental health.
For those of you old enough to be in the Friends generation, it means Joey was right: there are technically no selfless good deeds.
Start with the man in the mirror…
Next time you look in the mirror and realise it has been all about you recently, consider the words of Man in the Mirror.
Try looking instead for opportunities to help others less fortunate. Do some fundraising, support your local food bank or pop in to visit an elderly neighbour. Whatever it is, big or small, an act of kindness will make a difference to someone in need and you’ll also be contributing to your own wellbeing.
As Michael Jackson wrote; ‘It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make it right.’
Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as anthems for overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.