Singer Lauv performs on stageShare on Pinterest
Singer Lauv says he has dealt with mental health issues since he was a child. RONDA CHURCHILL/AFP via Getty Images

Multi-platinum artist Lauv remembers having a strong urge to make lists as a kid.

“I don’t even know what they were about, but I remember [telling] my mom when I was a little kid or early teenager, being like, ‘I have a weird feeling where I feel like I have to make lists about things,'” Lauv told Healthline.

As an adult, he learned that the compulsion to make lists was a form of anxiety that would later manifest into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition in which intrusive thoughts and fears result in repetitive behaviors.

“[Around] 2018, kind of as my career was starting to take off, the anxiety started creeping back into my life really badly and it turned into a lot of obsessive negative thoughts; a lot of obsessive questioning,” he said.

At first, he reacted to the psychological turmoil by distancing and isolating himself from people.

“Even as somebody who grew up around people struggling with OCD and depression, I didn’t really have the terminology for it and didn’t understand it until I started talking to people who were like ‘you might not be sad right now, you might have gotten yourself into a place where you are depressed,'” said Lauv.

After seeking out mental health professionals in 2019, he was prescribed medication for depression and anxiety and began therapy.

As a child, Lauv went to family therapy briefly, and in college, he visited the school psychiatrist once due to feelings of depression. However, when he moved to Los Angeles after graduating college, he sought a therapist to visit regularly.

He discovered that finding the right therapist is worth the work and requires someone objective but also makes you feel comfortable and safe “because it’s a scientific thing, but it’s also very emotional and personal [and a] personality thing,” Lauv said.

Today, his therapy includes learning practical strategies that help him interrupt obsessive thoughts in the moment, as well as getting in touch with his spirituality.

“Therapy can be so much depending on who you’re working with,” he said.

He appreciates therapy so much that he partnered with BetterHelp to give away up to $3 million in free therapy to fans who haven’t received therapy from BetterHelp before. A person can sign up and be matched to a licensed therapist for a free month of professional counseling.

“I can talk about therapy all day and my own experiences and this and that, but so many people don’t even have the opportunity to try it, let alone the stigma, but there is limited access too,” Lauv said.

He said he hopes to help break down the stigma and bring more access to people by sharing his story and platform. “I’m pretty blown away that my music career has led to something like that,” he said.

Lauv also turns to meditation to help manage his well-being. He tries to meditate daily and sometimes even more than once per day.

However, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when he was in a “crisis zone,” that he tried meditation.

“At first, I was trying it with apps and stuff and I was so anxious that I couldn’t sink into listening to a stranger’s voice and doing it,” he said.

Then a friend who practiced meditation walked him through the process.

“[That’s] where I really felt the benefits of the meditation–when I was with somebody I felt this connection with,” Lauv said.

Around 2019, he began meditating regularly.

“I can watch in real time as I go from 5 minutes ago feeling so hectic and so crazy to 5 minutes…or 10 minutes later or 20 minutes after my meditation to ‘wow, I feel like a different person. I feel so good right now,'” he explained.

Peter Piraino LMSW, LCDC, executive clinical director for Renewal Lodge, said evidence suggests that meditation can reduce stress, limit impulsive decision-making, and raise serotonin levels in the brain.

“A simple 5-minute meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety,” he told Healthline.

To introduce fans to meditation, on November 10, Lauv is performing The Lauvstream: A Live Music & Meditation Experience that will take fans through an interactive journey exploring mindfulness, self-care, and the power of vulnerability.

“It’s a combination of songs from my new album and some older songs that are grouped in a way to kind of walk through a combo music and spiritual meditation kind of experience,” said Lauv.

He’ll also engage in a live Q&A with the audience.

“I’ve been wanting to find more ways to combine meditation and music and so I think this is really exciting and the beginning of something more like it,” he said.

For Lauv, exercise, taking walks, getting adequate sleep, engaging in genuine connection, and practicing other self-care measures like caring for his skin, help with his overall mental well-being.

While all of these are important, Lynn Lyons, psychotherapist and author of The Anxiety Audit, said consistency matters.

“You can’t go to the gym once and think you’ll stay fit. You can’t get one good night’s sleep and think that will keep you well-rested for rest of the month,” she told Healthline.

Additionally, she said understanding the difference between self-care and self-medication can help ensure you engage in beneficial self-care.

“When we practice self-care, we almost always feel better, often immediately but also over the long term. When we self-medicate, we may feel ‘better’ in the short-term, but there are often longer-term consequences,” Lyons said.

One way to tell the difference is to ask yourself: Do I ever feel regret because of the “self-care” choice I made?

If it’s truly self-care, Lyons said you wouldn’t feel regret.

“If you’re self-medicating (using substances, spending too much money, overeating, all while working to get rid of or distract yourself from your emotions, avoiding problems that need your attention), chances are you’ll feel regret after the fact,” she said.

Often people avoid going outside, exercising, or meditating because they believe these will take too much time or that a small amount of time dedicated to them won’t make a difference.

“It does. It adds up,” said Lyons.

According to Lyons, patterns such as ruminating, being catastrophic, being too rigid, and relying too heavily on your own thoughts and opinions can make anxiety and depression worse.

“But few people actually learn about those patterns and then work to adjust them. Therapy can help with this, but you can also investigate these patterns on your own,” she said.

While it sounds cliche, those who engage in meaningful work for others have better mental health, said Lyons.

“It’s actually a very powerful way to recover from depression and should be a part of therapy and ongoing self-care,” she said.

Spending time with people you care about and who care about you can feel fulfilling.

“Humans are social by nature,” said Piraino. “The more we interact with our social groups, the less isolated and depressed we feel.”

Whether dogs, cats, or other pets pull at your heartstrings, interacting with animals can also reap benefits.

“Humans form real bonds with animals and these bonds have been shown to reduce depression and feelings of loneliness,” Piraino said.

When managing mental health, Lauv said realizing that nothing is permanent can help.

“[I’ve] had so many times when it feels so all-consuming, when I’m in a bad place and it’s like I can not possibly see how I would feel better, but time and time again you always find a way out with yourself or with people around you or professional help,” he said.

However, accepting that mental health conditions like anxiety and depression may always be part of his life helps keep him focused on his health.

“[I’m] not going to be totally fixed, and it’s a lifelong thing,” he said. “[Maintaining] a good relationship with yourself and taking care of yourself is very possible and very rewarding, and your life is super worth it.”