Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dance to the music . . . and sing

 My good friend, Lori, reminded me of the therapeutic benefits that music has in reducing stress levels, reducing pain, enhancing our immune system, and improving our well being overall.  Research has shown that listening to Mozart three times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease and Mozart has also been linked with enhancing learning.  Making your own music is especially beneficial, because creating rhythm can extend pain fighting benefits by increasing relaxation, reducing loneliness, providing an emotional release and enhancing a spiritual connection.  (  Much of what is known regarding music's healing effects remains anecdotal, but when you are in pain, and your energy and spirits are low, your choice of soothing music will help you feel better.  I'm sure you won't particularly care if science has proven the benefits or not.  I don't think beating out a rhythm on a drum would be a good choice if you are already pounding out a rhythm with a headache.  You may want to choose a kinder and gentler tune for that moment in time.  But the beating of a drum may be just the perfect choice if your energy is low.  It's all about experimentation and individual taste.  There are no rules!

I recall taking a music appreciation course for my undergraduate degree.  I was working during the day so I had chosen a 3-hour evening course.  Generally speaking the class had been enjoyable and I looked forward to every class until we studied dissonant machine music.  For three hours my class listened to a variety of machine music that had little differentiation from one "musical" piece to the next.  As I entered hour 3 of that evening class I was becoming more and more agitated by the minute.  By the time I left that class I had become down right homicidal and was really in no condition to drive a car.  This self imposed cacophonous torture had successfully transformed an otherwise mild mannered person into a complete maniac.  I had no idea this lurked inside of me!  The moral of that story is to be cautious of your healing musical choice.  Harsh music with negative lyrics can have an effect that is in opposition of your original intent.

Recently I have been drawn to the happy, upbeat rhythms of reggae and Jamaican style music.  Jason Mraz and Bob Marley are two of my favorites.  When the pain in my hands lessens I sit down and play my piano.  My piano playing skills have suffered since I am unable to practice regularly, but that isn't important.  The benefit comes in just making music.  I went to a Bobby McFerrin concert about 12 years ago.  I'm sure you remember him; his most well-known song is Don't Worry, Be Happy.  He has an amazing voice with perfect pitch.  The music he makes with his voice is unearthly and mezmerizing.  I will never forget that evening with this vocal savant touting his belief that everyone can sing.  And we did.  Together we all sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  We all sang that as kids; do you remember?  When did we begin to believe we can't sing and we can't make music?  Yes we can!  And the good news is we feel better when we make music and sing, and it's free.  Just pick up a stainless steel bowl in the kitchen and beat out a rhythm with a wooden spoon.  Before you know it a neighbor may come over with a washboard to join you!  They probably want "permission" to play a musical instrument and sing even though they never had a music or vocal lesson in their life.    The next thing that could happen is you may start to dance around the house just for the pure joy of it.  I'm not as light on my feet as I used to be, but awkward doesn't matter (just don't fall down).  What matters is the movement . . . just move and groove with the music in your own head.  Very therapeutic.

So I  want to take this moment to thank Lori for reminding me that music brings healing and joy into life.  Despite how difficult a day may be for her, she has courage and hope each day and she always shares her joy with me and now she shares that with you!  Blessings to Lori and to all of you that express your joy every day.

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