Creating Your Life Through Music
“Music helps us feel what we need to feel. It helps us be who we really are, which is at the root of all healing.” ~Kalani Das, MT-BC
Special thanks to Board-Certified Music Therapist and CscVvsb Workshop Leader Kalani Das, MT-BC for sharing seven ways music can be a healing part of anyone’s life – whether your idea of music is Chopin or Chopsticks.
Shift Your Mood
Music listening is an accessible way to modify your mood or outlook, without the possible side effects of medication. You can create playlists that are designed towards various emotional or physical goals, such as relaxation, preparing for sleep, feeling energized, taking a trip down memory lane, and even getting work done. Use your personal music player of choice to bring your musical medicine cabinet wherever you go.
Reduce Pain & Anxiety
Music listening and active music making can both be used to reduce pain, anxiety and nausea. The music in this case does not act directly on the pain, but serves to reduce any attention that you place on it, thereby resulting in a perceived reduction. The net effect is that people who actively engage in a musical experience will suffer less because they are not attending to the pain. The key is being engaged in the music, ideally through active music making (singing and/or playing instruments), dancing, or both.
Better than Exercises
Music can be used to modulate and shape your physical state and increase your chances of remaining as healthy as possible throughout your life–and musical experiences are often fun. Music therapists use musical experiences to connect with and shape breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and other physical indicators while their clients are engaged in an enjoyable experience. The good news is, you can learn to create your own healthful music-based experiences that you can practice whenever you choose. Slow, deep breathing via toning (vocalizing extended vowel sounds), chanting (singing and repeating short musical phrases), or singing songs, is an example of how a musical experience equates to a healthful breathing exercise.
A Loving Practice
Musical experiences, which often include singing, moving to music, playing instruments, and discussing the meaning of lyrics, can become a meaningful and rewarding pastime or hobby. As a music therapist, I sometimes help people develop leisure skills that support their therapeutic goals. Music is portable, requires little or no equipment, is universally appreciated across all cultures, and has virtually no negative side effects. Many patients who thought of themselves as ‘non-musical’ have ended up becoming life-long amateur musicians. The word “amateur” is based in the root word “amore.” The amateur musician is someone who loves music.
A personal music practice can integrate perfectly with mindfulness and meditation. You can use simple and accessible toning, chanting, or singing experiences to complement, support, and expand any practice that is aimed at increasing your sense of presence, wellbeing, and spirituality. A mindfulness-based music practice can be personal and/or shared between friends, loved ones, or a community of peers.
Musical experiences are, by definition, expressive experiences. But they express more than just music. Clients also express ideas, thoughts, emotions, goals, dreams, fears, and most importantly, they get to know one another and themselves. What begins as a song might end with uncontrollable laughter, a heartfelt discussion, a cathartic experience that opens new pathways to healing, or just a good cry. Music helps us feel what we need to feel. It helps us be who we really are, which is at the root of all healing.
Your Support Network
Music making can serve as the foundation for ongoing and rewarding social experiences. People engage in music at places of prayer and worship largely because it helps them feel connected–to their god, their practice, and to each other. Any community music experience presents opportunities for interpersonal connection, sharing, and mutual support. Music used for socializing can be formal, as in a religious setting, or casual, as in a community drum circle or ukulele club sing-along. The goal is to share music with others, which results in increased feelings of community and mutual support.
Kalani Das, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist and educator. He provides music therapy and training in Los Angeles and abroad. See kalanimusic.com, gsmusictherapy.com, playsinglaugh.com, and kalanidas.com for more. Follow Kalani Das on most social media platforms at: @kalanimusic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.