Therapist: Turn Up the Tunes to Squash the Mundane
Mar 8, 2021
Ashley Boarman
woman with headphones on

Are you feeling down or stuck in a rut? You may want to turn on some music.

Callie Cowart, a music therapist who works with pediatric and older adult patients and their families, says music in our daily lives can have a tremendous effect.

“Music can be incredibly therapeutic, but we don’t always think to use it as a mindfulness tool used to help with energy, stress, or even interpersonal relationships,” says Cowart, who works at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.

She encourages individuals and families to use music in the following ways to stimulate — or calm — their mind, brighten their mood and improve their overall well-being:

  • Learning to play an instrument like the ukulele or piano is more accessible than ever with YouTube and other internet resources/apps. Especially if you’re feeling stuck in a rut (we’ve all been there), exploring a new hobby by testing out your musical creativity can be a fun way to shake things up.
  • If learning a new instrument feels a little overwhelming, even the act of singing or tapping along to your favorite songs is therapeutic on its own.
  • Creating morning/evening rituals with a playlist or song can increase feelings of motivation and accomplishment. This can either be a “wake up/get ready” playlist to set the tone for the day or a “post-work/ready for bed” playlist to reflect and unwind after a long day.

Coward explains, “As someone who frequently plays instruments for a living, by the time I get home I may not want to use music in the same way I do with patients.”

Instead, she says, here are the musical activities that are making a difference for her personally:

  • Sharing a song or album with family or friends helps me feel closer to them, especially in COVID times with shelter-in-place. I’ll either send them an old song to reminisce or send something new and let them know why it made me think of them. A simple, “This song reminded me of you because…” can go a long way in feeling connected and appreciated.”
  • “My housemates and I end almost every night with a two- or three-song dance party to celebrate our successes of the day or gear up for the rest of the week. This ramps up social support on tough days, too. Video chat with your friends or go solo with a dance party of your own. Plus, the releasing of endorphins when you move is an added pick-me-up bonus to help you feel better.”

The best part of playing and listening to music is that you don’t need to have any musical ability or expertise to begin. Whether learning a new instrument or listening to your favorite song for the millionth time, tapping into music just feels good.

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