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This week on the #HealthyHabits2017 challenge we had to bring music back into our lives.

Music is such a great thing. It’s pretty much the auditory expression of emotion which can be really impactful no matter what your preferences are, it’s universally accessible and there’s something out there for everyone. Learning an instrument is a great thing to do at any stage in life because it helps teach different useful skills to the player and is really good exercise for the brain.

You have music therapists who use music, and the creation, improvisation and performances of it to treat a range of problems that a specific person may be experiencing. The things they cover can be anything from emotional well-being, to physical health and even communication abilities and cognitive skills.

So what exactly are the specific health benefits of music and how does it fit in with our challenge?

It’s been found that listening to music can ease pain especially in geriatric, intensive or palliative care, and can ease the recovery in stroke patients if they listening to music for at least two hours a day.

Both listening and playing music also improves performance and endurance in the listener. Partially by working through distraction - you can streamline and focus your thinking on that particular thing you’ve been listening to and then you realise you’ve gone above and beyond what you were initially looking to do.

It also aids in physical recovery after exercising, speeding up the time it takes to get past an ache or pain. Slow music relaxes the listener but any tempo of music helps with the healing process. Also playing music can help with dexterity and having greater control of your body. Drummers can be as fit at athletes because of how much they exert themselves while drumming.

Classical music has been shown to effectively treat insomnia and can help induce a meditative state as music beats can alter brainwave speed. And listening to music in general has positive effects on mood, which has increased blood flow in people - therefor having a positive effect on blood vessel function.

Playing music has extremely positive effects on the brain and memory function so much so that ten years of playing from being a child can have great impact on the brain later on in life. 

Also a great fact I discovered while researching this weeks challenge: In a recent study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music — either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist — three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang. Now listen to this before we start the next section. 

HOW DID IT GO?

I personally am a bit of a music nerd and listen to music about 70% of my daily life. I find it helps me focus when doing work, it relaxes me, I listen to things when I’m angry to get out my emotions. I also really love listening to people articulate observations and the experience of life in ways that I would never have thought of. It’s my favourite thing, the one thing I’m in awe of anyone being able to do, and it hasn’t really left my life on a daily basis. However I did learn to play the piano and keyboard as a child, I must have had lessons for about ten years, and my dad played a great musical influence on me as he had his own little studio set up in one of the rooms of his house with a drum kit, guitars, keyboard, anything and everything you might want to play around with. Though when it came to school and the crunch time of deciding what to focus on for my GCSEs and further study, art won out (thankfully because visual creativity is my job now) so playing music went on the back burner and now I barely have the confidence to even have a little tinkle on a piano.

So this week I decided to try and play an instrument again, I called upon the best person I know for that kind of thing, and Cathy popped round and gave me Ukulele lesson. Something I’ve never picked up. She stayed for an hour and showed me some finger exercises, taught me how to read the tabs, showed me how to hold the instrument and then showed me a few chords and got me to play them in different ways. It was really interesting to learn, I think it wasn’t too hard to pick up because of my piano experience but I did have a weird feeling in my wrist because I don’t use my left arm all that much on the regular.

It’s was so weird learning something from scratch as an adult. I think we’re always learning mentally, discovering new things, but physically doing something that’s unfamiliar to you is a really weird feeling. Like being a child again. I think as an adult there’s this feeling of oh I can do it myself, but it was really really cool having someone who knows what they’re doing show you how to do something and learning something totally new. It makes it less scary or intimidating. I even picked up the ukulele after she left as it genuinely felt really nice to know that I could do something with it. Cathy said that in a follow up lesson the kind of thing that might be covered is learning more chords and practicing moving between those and different ways of playing, and seeing how that could potentially fit into a song or piece of music as that’s when you start feeling like you’re accomplishing something. So another lesson? Sign me up! Perhaps I need to dig out the keyboard from the cupboard now too… I do really miss playing music, it really is something I need to try and bring back into my life.

Next week - setting time aside at the start or end of the day, seeing as I failed miserably at trying to stretch while doing things.

 

If anyone in London fancies some ukulele, electric or acoustic guitar, definitely get in touch with Cathy as she’s a really great person to learn from: catherineokadamusic@gmail.com

Image from Spiritualized

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