Saturday, June 12

Music can calm the inner storms of stressful times

By GILLIAN SLADE on December 15, 2020.

Mark Ward, brass instructor at Medicine Hat College Conservatory of Music and Dance, sits at the piano. He says there are many benefits from listening to or making music during stressful times such as the COVID pandemic.–SUBMITTED PHOTO

A local music instructor says music can evoke strong emotions and can help us cope better with stressful times, such as a pandemic.

Mark Ward, brass instructor at Medicine Hat College Conservatory of Music and Dance, says hearing a piece of music can strike a chord within us with strong emotions.

You may associate a specific piece of music with an event in your life. It may have been positive, or negative. Generally it is the positive ones that we tend to remember, said Ward.

Even if it is a negative event you are reminded of, it can be turned into a positive. Consider how you have progressed since then. You overcame difficult circumstances then and will do so again.

“Specifically listening to the music rather than just having it in the background” of your focus releases the benefits of listening to music, said Ward.

Research online indicates that music with a faster beat could make you more alert while slower music can help relax the body, reduce muscle tension and relieve stress.

There are studies that show that brain waves are affected. It is one reason why many people choose specific music to listen to while engaging in physical exercise. They say it makes them feel more motivated to workout for longer.

Some people suggest choosing music to suit your mood and then purposefully sitting in a comfortable position to focus on the music. If your mind starts to return to thinking about the aspects you are worried about, simply bring your mind back to the music. It helps to focus on your breathing and your heart rate.

Ward says there are benefits to directing your attention to the music “purposefully” to move the more stressful thoughts to the background.

It is important to find music that you like to listen to so that you become engaged, said Ward.

For a long time the benefits of singing in a choir have been noted. The COVID pandemic has temporarily put an end to choir practices but, Ward says, sing even on your own. “It can reduce stress hormones.”

There is also plenty of research on the benefits of playing a musical instrument. Even if you have not played an instrument before this may be a good time to start, said Ward. At some point you will benefit from having individual music lessons but there is plenty to get you going if you look on YouTube.

Ward says the price of musical instruments have come down considerably over the years. A piano for example used to be a big investment and you needed the space in your home to accommodate one. You can get started with a simple electronic keyboard now and if you still aspire to owning an upright piano, they are cheaper than they used to be.

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