Music’s role in mindfulness

Combining music with mindfulness can allow you to create more space for the healing benefits.

In a world of stress, uncertainty and unpredictability many of us are looking for ways to manage our emotions and outlook on life. Coping skills can be defined as the way we respond to stressful situations. We all have our coping skills, though many tend to cause more problems than resolve original issues. Many of our coping skills are used on auto-pilot where we don’t recognize our actions as coping skills. We might use blame, denial, a busy schedule, food, drugs or alcohol as a way of handling the uncomfortable feelings associated with stress. Have you considered replacing any of those behaviors with music? Music is a healthy alternative to incorporate into your toolbox of how you respond to life’s challenges.

The American Psychological Association, reported on a study where premature babies were offered sessions of live music as a form of therapy. This study showed that with live music present (particularly singing), infants heart rates decreased, sucking behaviors improved, and parents reported decreased stress amongst themselves. According to the Journal Psychiatry, music is made up of rhythm and harmony, which are present in our everyday lives. Pay attention to how you feel when you listen to different sounds. For some, the sound of birds chirping might offer relaxation while for others it stimulates irritation. Not only do the sounds and rhythm’s affect us, but volume can have a large impact as well. Pay attention to how you respond mentally, physically and emotionally to various music, sounds and rhythms in your daily life.

You may or may not be familiar with the term Mindfulness. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the Center for Mindfulness says, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

Music alone does wonders for our health and wellness. But if you combine music with mindfulness you create more space for the healing benefits.

Simple ways to experience music and sounds mindfully
  • Attend a live performance or concert and notice how easy or difficult it is to stay in the present moment. You might notice your mind is a wandering circus, or you might effortlessly be focused on the show. Just observe.
  • Give yourself 5 minutes to toss on head phones, and choose 1 song to listen to that you know will relax you. Find a comfortable sitting or lying posture, close your eyes, and listen only to the song. Observe where your mind goes. If it wanders, that is normal. Gently welcome your attention back to the song you chose.
  • Sit outside for five minutes, and notice the sounds. Is there traffic, feet hitting the pavement, birds? Do these different sounds stimulate tension or relaxation for you? Pay attention to the sounds, and your reactions.
  • Listen to silence. When you’re alone in the car at a traffic light, or before you head inside to your next meeting, or maybe you find a park, take one minute to sit in silence. Notice what you notice.
  • Explore new music. There may be rhythms, beats and lyrics out there waiting to connect with you.

There are various ways to find music, sounds and rhythms in our daily lives. If we are not aware of how different sounds affect us, it makes it difficult to use sound and music as a healing and calming modality. Tune in with yourself, and the sounds around you to find the calm you are looking for. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, Michigan State University Extension offers many classes statewide that can assist you in your social emotional health and well-being. Reach out your local expert today!

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