With roots in Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness has been gaining attention globally. This is not just a trend for yogis and hipster millennials. Doctors, psychologists, teachers, and even corporate managers are starting to recognize the positive health benefits of this practice. Simply put, mindfulness is "paying attention on purpose. It emphasizes being aware of and fully experiencing the present moment.
Research suggests that corporate managers who practiced mindfulness reported decrease in work-related stress, sickness absence, somatic complaints, and increases in mood and self-esteem. Companies are introducing mindfulness programs to their employees to increase productivity and teamwork and overall happiness.
Can mindfulness practice be taken to the next level?
Here's how the unique healing aspects of music combined with mindfulness techniques can improve your life.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Looming deadlines…overloaded schedule…rent check due… You have too much on your plate. Daily stressors that build up over time can lead to serious physical and mental health problems like hypertension, cardiac problems, and anxiety. Extended periods of stress takes a serious toll on your mind and body. While stress reduction is not the sole target goal of mindfulness, the integration of carefully selected music can help you arrive to a calm state. Studies show that preferred, sedative music can reduce perceived stress. Guided imagery and music has shown to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and improve mood in healthy adults. By engaging in a music-centered mindfulness program, you can better manage your stress to keep your mind and body healthy.
Build Better Relationships
Can you remember, word-for-word, the last conversation that you had with someone? Unless it was literally 10 seconds ago, it might be difficult for you to recall exactly what the other person said. Often, we are not fully aware of the present moment, especially in our discussions with coworkers, friends, and family. When a lapse in communication occurs, often causes conflict in relationships. Music and mindfulness helps you become a better listener.
While music listening itself might not improve your attention, music paired with mindfulness can helps you focus on what you're hearing/experiencing. By regularly practicing mindful music listening, you exercise your active listening skills. Use these mindfulness skills to make others feel heard and to improve your relationships at work and at home.
Improve Your Productivity
Our technology enables us to multitask...often, to a fault. You can text, FaceTime, check your emails, and tweet all at the same time. We're constantly jumping from one attention-grabbing meme to the next fake news headline. These features are marketed at convenience, but it is actually counterintuitive to a productive, healthy lifestyle.
Mindfulness invites you to pay attention to one thing at a time. Music can be used in conjunction as a strategic way to improve your focus and productivity. Music therapy research provides evidence can music can improve attention. In practicing a mindful workflow, you can work at your best.
Balance Your Emotions
You had a bad day, and you probably snapped at someone for no good reason. You found yourself saying something you shouldn't have to your boss, your S/O, your friend, or the Starbucks barista. Although having your name spelled wrong (again) on your coffee cup is irritating, it probably did not warrant the response you gave. Mindfulness helps you stabilize your emotional reactivity, allowing you to first notice the situation, describe what is happening, and finally to engage in a positive way. Rather than allowing your emotions to hijack your responses, learn to be in control. Integrating music can help you get there. A highly emotional art form, music can evokes a wide array of experiences such as sorrow, joy, and peace. Music therapists and music therapy-informed mindfulness programs utilize music's emotional qualities for the client's benefit. Carefully selected music, along with a mindfulness program can help you improve your mood.
Keep Your Body Healthy
Music is shown to have significant physiological effects on our body. Music-assisted relaxation can improve1 respiration, lower2 blood pressure, improve3 cardiac output, reduce4 heart rate, and relax5 muscle tension. Board-certified music therapists recognize these positive effects, and use music to help individuals in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, intensive care, cancer care, hospice, and more. Music therapy techniques, along with wellness-centered programs, can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2Depressed adolescents listening to music experienced a significant decrease in stress hormone (cortisol) levels, and most adolescents shifted toward left frontal EEG activation (associated with positive affect). Field, T., Martinez, A., Nawrocki, T., Pickens, J., Fox N.A., & Schanberg, S. (1998). Music shifts frontal EEG in depressed adolescents. Adolescence, 33(129), 109-116.
3Burns, J. L., Labbé, E. Arke, B., Capeless, K., Cooksey, B., Steadman, A., & Gonzales, C. (2002). The effects of different types of music on perceived and physiological measures of stress. Journal of Music Therapy, 39(2), 101-116.
4Hammer, S. E (1996). The effects of guided imagery through music on state and trait anxiety. Journal of Music Therapy, 33(1), 47-70.
5Music Therapy reduces cortisol in healthy adults. McKinney, C.H., Antoni, M.H., Kumar, M., Tims, F.C. & McCabe, P.M. (1997). Effects of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) Therapy on mood and cortisol in healthy adults. Health Psychology 16 (4). 390– 400.