There has been much in the press lately about how mindfulness can improve your sense of wellbeing. Taking a mindful moment in the present can be a time to recharge and reconnect with yourself. I believe allowing ourselves to combine this experience with a musical activity such as singing or listening to music can provide us with deeper therapeutic moments. This title is the key to how I try to live my life. Writing the songs for my album Exquisitely Hopeless led me to another place. The process of writing can feel like tapping into something primal which is a kind of life force outside of myself. This is very freeing. As a musician and songwriter I find I need music, and start to feel depressed if I can't experience it. Music always calms me right down when life feels challenging. Music is easy to find, it doesn't require an app, and it is open and freely available to us all.
"Music is to me, proof of the existence of God. It is so extraordinarily full of magic, and in tough times of my life I can listen to music and it makes such a difference" - KURT VONNEGUT
Inviting music as mindfulness into our lives.
Sometimes it can be just allowing music to have the chance to come into our lives. A song may play on the radio in the car that completely intercepts with our lives. Taking time to listen to the lyrics may reveal a new sense of meaning about someone you are going to see, or something you are going to do that day. Or maybe you just need to practice lip syncing to a well known tune and not worry whoever else is in the car!
Music can aid recovery from depression.
Learning to take this emotional time out as a regular activity can form an essential part of recovery from depression. A friend of mine who is recovering from serious depression is discovering that by listening to the band "Godspeed You! Black Emperor" is a way of discharging some suppressed emotions and is very cathartic. The British Journal of Psychiatry showed that listening to music lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body.
Singing as mindfulness.
As a singer I have spotted the benefits of singing as a stress reliever. On mornings when I've been screaming desperately trying to get my son to school on time for once, if I then have the chance to sing I can immediately feel calmer. Literally you are using your body as an instrument. Scientists have shown that singing releases endorphins, a hormone associated with pleasure, and it also regulates our breathing. This is the perfect remedy for combatting anxiety. Findings at Harvard and Yale have shown that it improves the health of your heart due to the happier state it induces.
Music can enhance your creativity
The British neurologist Oliver Sacks reminds us "Music has the power to imprint itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience"
By evoking emotions it stimulates our creative thought patterns, which can show us new solutions to problems. In an age when we are pressurized to meet deadlines, when the education system is becoming so accountable and our brains can get blocked by the demands of a world online, this deeper emotional connection feels pressingly essential. Music immediately takes us to a better place and enables us to see a creative aspect of ourselves and shows us how to live a fuller life and this can only enhance the lives of those who live and work alongside us.
Music brings us together.
In our fractured digital age, music is a place where we can start to feel whole again as we develop shared identities and tribes. Experiencing a Bat for Lashes show recently, I realized that this common sense of a shared identity and community feels even more precious than ever. The message by the visionary songwriter Pete Seeger 'We Shall Overcome" still feels pertinent today as we remember that music affirms us and teaches us what is good about being human.