Thrive on Campus//

The One Hidden Message on Mental Health in Arianna Grande’s New Song

In just a few verses, Ariana Grande’s new song "Thank U, Next" shares all the breakup wisdom we need to move on in healthier ways.

Courtesy of Lindsay Neilson photos
Courtesy of Lindsay Neilson photos

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

The pain was unlike any other I had experienced: over the course of a few hours, I could feel my body slowly tightening, constricting in on itself until I became a small ball. I stayed on the floor for what seemed like hours, unable to move or think clearly. It was my first real breakup.

When my friends finally found me, they came with an emergency kit which included a variety of comfort food but, most importantly, they came with speakers and a “Breakup Playlist.”

All the popular break-up songs I grew up listening to were featured in this playlist: Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You Been Gone,” Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending,” and Rihanna’s “Take a Bow.”

While these songs (along with countless Hershey’s Bars) did help distract me from the pain of the moment, the message promoted in these mainstream breakup songs was always very similar; we broke up, you caused me pain, and now I’m going to cut you completely out of my life to feel better. To feel empowered and liberated, you had to cut that person out of your life.

While cutting all ties with someone after a break up may be crucial and beneficial for your survival in the immediate aftermath, in the long-term, this might not be the healthiest mindset.   

Grande’s “Thank you, next” shows us why.        

In a just a few verses, the artist shows us that, in the long term, the healthiest way to move on is not necessarily to reject, but rather, to accept our past in all its forms. By accepting our past, we can ultimately strengthen our relationship to ourselves and this gives us the peace of mind to truly move on. 

Thought I’d end up with Sean…Wrote some songs about Ricky

Grande’s song opens with an honest identification of her past relationships. And she doesn’t just share what happened, but who her past relationships involved: Grande names her past loves.

Why does this matter?

Though you don’t necessarily need to follow her lead in sharing the names of your past partners with the world, you might, in your moments of introspection, ask yourself — are you able to do this? Are you able to name the ghosts of your past?

Sometimes simply naming your past relationships can be the first step towards moving on, even if it might seem like a small action.

So, look what I got…                    Look what you taught me

Naming your past partners opens you to the possibility of reflecting on your experiences with them. After Grande identifies hers, she lists what she learned from each of them:

“one taught me love,                                                                             one taught me patience,                                                                             and one taught me pain”

Despite the loss of someone in her life, she reminds us that she didn’t necessarily lose anything because she gained valuable lessons from each of these experiences, even those that brought her pain. Grande doesn’t associate the pain someone may have caused her with resentment; pain is a teaching, equated in importance with other teachings — love and patience.

And for these teachings, Grande repeats in the chorus “Thank you, next.”  

Thank you, next

Grande’s song associates “gratitude” with “moving on”: The core message of Grande’s song is that by channeling our gratitude, we can move on.

Contrary to the breakup songs I grew up listening to, the empowering quality of her breakup song doesn’t come from a place of resentment or anger, but rather from embracing them and emphasizing the gratitude she feels for the lessons she learned from these experiences.

Plus, I met someone else              We havin’ better discussions…  ‘Cause her name is Ari

Grande reveals in the second verse of her song why exactly accepting her past partners and understanding the lessons she learned from these experiences was so powerful: after all the relationships, the ‘someone else’ Grande meets is herself. Ultimately, accepting her past experiences helped strengthen her relationship to herself.

This is precisely where the most beautiful underlying breakup wisdom lies in her song: Accepting your past relationships and appreciating these in some way, can help you achieve the peace of mind necessary to truly move on from them.

There is nothing liberating or empowering about holding resentment or anger towards your past relationships. In the end, these sentiments will only prevent you from strengthening your relationship to yourself because they will tie you to the past, leaving you wondering what could have happened or what should have happened.

But gratitude and acceptance will help you look backwards to say, “thank you,” so that you can look forward at what comes “next.” 

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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