“Where words fail, music speaks.”
-Hans Christian Andersen
It’s no secret that our world is experiencing unprecedented times and our lives are filled with so much uncertainty.
How do we stay positive and productive without letting the never-ending negative news get us down?
Enter music as mental medicine.
As an early childhood music educator, my days are filled with singing and dancing, playing my guitar and ukulele and listening to loads of music every moment of the day. But a few weeks ago, all that was taken away when the schools where I had been teaching were closed due to the pandemic.
The first few days home I found myself glued to my phone reading every article possible on this terrible virus (you too??). I’d fall asleep with the television telling me about new cases. It was no surprise that my sleep suffered and my dreams turned to nightmares because of what I had been filling my mind with.
After several days of this, I knew something needed to change. I was exhausted, scared and no fun to be around (just ask my family).
I walked into my office ready to take on a mind-numbing task to take my mind off of it all when I saw my ukulele sitting there all cool, calm and collected. (Don’t worry, this email is not about convincing you to learn to play the ukulele, put if you are interested, I’ve got a class for that! Click here.)
That’s when it struck me, I haven’t had any music in my life! Well, that had to change.
I quickly realized that I could replace the time I had been spending absorbed in my phone with music. It had been there all along, waiting patiently to comfort me and take my mind off of my current obsession.
I picked up that ukulele and began to play. It didn’t take long before a sense of peace came over me. Time seemed to stand still and all that was going on in the world around me was forgotten. It was just my music and me.
I still find myself watching a bit too much news, but I’ve also done a better job of balancing it with the positive energy that music brings and I so encourage you to give it a shot for your own mental health.
At this point you may be thinking, but I don’t play an instrument so how can I tap into the benefits of music?
Here’s the great thing about music, you don’t just have to produce it to reap the positive mental benefits. If you too have been sucked into the never-ending negative news and need a break, I’ve made a list of three ways you can begin tapping into the power of music to increase your overall mental health not only now, but any time life throws a curveball.
If you are interested, head over to my blog.
3 Ways to Use Music as Medicine
- Turn on music that makes you dance! We all know that when we move our bodies we feel better. Why? Because movement stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals our body produces to relieve stress and pain. While we can get this from a vigorous walk or aerobic workout, dancing seems to release even more endorphins than typical aerobic movement. Take Action: Choose a song or playlist that makes you move your body. Grab a partner or go it alone. Don’t forget the old saying that’s really true now, DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING! This is probably not hard to do these days since most of us are alone or with our immediate family;)
- Trigger happy memories with a favorite song. Every one of us has at least one song that’s tied to a positive experience. Whether it’s the song that accompanied the first dance at your wedding or the music you listened to in high school, music has the ability to trigger memories that are so strong it makes you feel like you are right back in that moment. Take Action: Think back to positive times in your life and recall a song or two you were listening to a lot during that time. Turn it on and let the memories come flooding back.
- Create a bedtime playlist – While many of us may not be setting our alarms at the moment, our internal alarm may be scheduling wake ups on your behalf. If you’ve found yourself wide awake at 2 a.m., it may be time to take a look at your bedtime routine. Rather than looking at your phone until sleep finally arrives, try turning on calming music. It naturally slows down your heart rate and breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and oftentimes your muscles relax. All of these lead to a perfect recipe for slumber because these biological changes mirror some of the same changes that your body undergoes when you’re falling asleep, making music the perfect preparation for restorative slumber. Take Action: Since everyone’s music preferences are different, create a playlist filled with music you love. But be sure to choose music with a slow tempo as that will elicit the physical responses that will benefit your sleep. These slower tempos are more often found in jazz, classical and instrumental music.
May music be the medicine that calms your nerves and lifts your spirits.