Sunday, August 14, 2016

Music for Wellness, Part I: Mental and Emotional Benefits

I initially wrote this article by invitation from a friend. She asked me to contribute a "guest writer" article for her awesome fitness blog. She then published it at www.LoriKing.us. It will be reprinted here in two parts...

It is gratifying to see that the arts may finally be reclaiming their prior stake among core classes in the American educational system, and that more children may be offered the opportunity to explore and practice visual and performing arts as part of their regular school day once again. Countless studies have shown that engagement in musical study enhances a child’s cognitive development, which enhances his/her performance in math and science. Music represents not only a necessary part of a child’s education, but also an important source of mental, emotional and physical wellness throughout one’s life.

The arts in general provide so much to our core being as humans on this planet. Visual arts, music, theater, dance. . . each discipline exercises our right brain, stretching our global and spatial learning capacities, and igniting our creativity. Using one’s whole brain (rather than simply the analytical/logical aspects of cognition, understood to be located on the left side of the brain) contributes balance to life and “opens the mind.” Using both right and left sides of the brain at a high level of proficiency enables children to learn in multiple ways and promotes different types of concentration.

Sustained concentration during musical performance accompanied by freedom from stress or distraction (often referred to as being “in the zone” or finding “flow state”) allows for an elevated level of performance excellence so often elusive in day-to-day work. The ability to find that “flow state” can enhance one’s work life, home life and personal goal attainment. “Flow” can be applied to other disciplines such as meditation, exercise, sports, cooking, writing, public speaking or a host of other normal activities, resulting in a highly efficient, productive period of accomplishment. Cultivating “flow state” through the study and performance of music simply adds to one’s quality of life, and is good for the brain, body and soul!

In addition to increasing mental acuity, the emotional benefits of habitual engagement with music cannot be overstated. Choral music in particular holds important emotional benefits in that the act of group singing builds a sense of belonging, cooperation, team-work, camaraderie, and overall well-being for the group as well as for each individual. Instrumentalists receive similar benefits when they actively engage with a band or orchestra. The achievement of a positive performance result in a group or solo situation creates confidence, trust, and feelings of accomplishment. Musical performance also provides a needed outlet for reducing stress, thereby recharging one’s joy reserves. The interpersonal and emotional benefits provided by musical engagement are vitally important facets of a healthy life, a healthy family and a healthy workplace!

Music for Wellness, Part II: Physical Benefits, will be posted in September. Thanks for staying tuned!