Music is a very powerful and wonderful thing. Here, I share some ways that it can benefit learning, mental health, social skills and confidence.
1. Music can influence our emotional state
Listening to, and even more so, playing a musical instrument or singing, stimulates new neural pathways to form. Did you know that playing a musical instruments or singing is one of the only disciplines that lights up all the areas of your brain at one time? Music can boost our mood.
Listening to just twenty minutes of your favourite kind of upbeat music can turn your negative mood around to a much more positive one. This is because exposure to this music increases our 'feel-good’ chemicals (endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin) while at the same time lowers our ‘stress-making’ chemicals (cortisol and adrenaline) so it is a ‘win/win’ situation.
Music can also help us relax: At the start of every vocal lesson I always begin with some breathing exercises with my students. This helps them to calm and centre themselves and also strengthens their lung capacity. Listening to music that is of a tempo of 60 beats per minute has been found to help us relax. This is because it is roughly the same tempo as our resting heart rate so it lowers our rates of respiration and perspiration as well as slowing down our heart rate. Listening to this slower paced music before bedtime can also aid better sleep.. Music is also sometimes an accompaniment to meditation and mindfulness practices that also aid our relaxation.
2. Music helps our self-expression and creativity
When I was growing up I certainly did channel my emotions into my piano playing. I would sit down at the keyboard and compose my own music that expressed my emotions. At the end of my music students’ lessons I always let them have a time of free improvisation where they can create their own music. There is no right or wrong way to do that and it is just a time where they can explore and be creative with their instrument or voice. Musical composition and song-writing can be great ways that we can express ourselves. You do not need to read and write traditional musical notation – you can also represent the sounds you create by images, pictures and graphic scores (where symbols, colours and shapes represent the sounds). Research has also shown that listening to music stimulates creative ways of thinking in our brains so if you have a new task to complete you could listen to your favourite kind of music while completing it. Music is also related to all the other Arts subjects and you can combine your music listening/making with art, drama, or dance.
3. Music can help us improve our focus
You may have heard of the so-called ‘The Mozart Effect’ – it was very big in the 1990s. It was the idea that listening to classical music and particularly that of the composer Mozart, was very good for your brain and could increase your intelligence. This came off the back of one study done that did show that children who had been exposed to classical music in the study did perform better in a series of cognitive and spatial tasks than a control group. More recent research has gone on to prove that it is not just the music of Mozart or even classical music that has this effect as apparently the pop song ‘Country House’ by the group ‘Blur’ has the same effect! It seems that it is not so much the style of the music that improves cognitive ability and focus but the speed/tempo of the music. It is music that has that ‘magic’ tempo of 60 beats per minute has been shown to increase our focus level.
4. Music can help us to socialise
Listening to music or singing/playing music on your own can be enjoyable but it is even more fun and satisfying to do it with other people. If you join a musical ensemble you are getting the opportunity to work with others to create something together. This encourages team-work, cooperation, sharing, active listening and communication. If you are not musical yourself you can still get involved as an audience member or member of a fan club of your favourite artist or band. Going to LIVE music events is something that can really enhance your enjoyment and quality of life. In some studies it is even claimed that it can add years onto your life expectancy!
5. Music can help us build our confidence and self-esteem
Taking music lessons can help develop our ability to perform which can be transferred to other areas of our life – such as job interviews, giving presentations or sitting exams. Music can be involved in developing the unique skills, gifts, strengths and talents of every child. Some children who find more academic subjects more difficult can actually excel in music and this really helps to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Music can help you to overcome your limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough”. I work with my students to replace their past negative experiences of music lessons with new more joyous musical experiences. I know that you are much better than you think you are too! I have a saying: ‘Practice Makes Progress” – because we are not striving for perfection as that is
not possible and results in us feeling frustrated and sad with ourselves. Instead I concentrate on helping my students improve and move forwards in a positive way.
So I hope that the above gives you an idea of just some of the amazing, ways that music can enhance our lives. If you are thinking of music lessons for yourself and/or for your children then I would say,
“It’s never too late...until it’s too late. So go for it now!”
To learn more please visit www.musicaldiamond.com
Emma Nottage is a qualified primary school teacher, a private one-to-one music tutor for all ages, a best-selling author and an accredited NLP/Timelines/Life coach for adults. She is currently writing a non-fiction/self-help book about ‘Music and Well-being’. She has recently appeared as a guest speaker at special online events for ‘Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2022’.
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