USING MUSIC TO PROTECT OUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING LOCKDOWN

So, we have been plunged into Lockdown 3 and it isn’t pretty. Increasingly, we have been encouraged to look after our physical fitness but how about our mental well-being? Artist and Musician Sandra Godley looks at how music can improve our mental well being.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a huge passion for music. I’ve been singing since I was a little girl and grew up being influenced by many of the greatest singers ever, including my absolute favourite, Aretha Franklin.  I have had the privilege of performing at many iconic UK venues including the Roundhouse, The House of Commons, many international venues, The Ricoh Arena and our very own Godiva Festival. But what has music done to change my perspective of life, my health and my well-being?

Well, a great place to start is by looking at the benefits of music in our lives. Much research has suggested that music is good for the soul, it’s a mood shifter. It can help prevent you from making bad decisions but it can also set you off on super solo adventures. If you consider yourself a mover & a groover, music can literally get you on that dance floor quicker than lightening, strutting your best dance moves without a care in the world. I’ve seen some of the best undiscovered dad dancers in the world, even though some leave the dance floor (sometimes carried off) with ugly expressions of pain and well-hidden tears, anyone know what I mean?

There is good news. In recent years, scientific studies have confirmed the connection between music and mood. Some studies have found that listening to music that you actually enjoy, may increase the release of pleasure-causing substances such as dopamine to the brain. In fact, it’s like receiving an award. It may also decrease stress-causing hormone production in the body.

One thing I’ve learned to appreciate is that you don’t need musical training to appreciate music, absolutely not! Coventry has some of the most diverse array of music to enjoy and celebrate and much of it I could never attempt to play myself. I’ve had the immense privilege of hosting many cultural events in the city. What a joy it’s been to see people immerse themselves in genres such as African, Romanian, Chinese etc. These rich different accents of music transport you to another place, another country, another experience.

So how can music improve our well-being?

Sparking Imagination

We all have an imagination but how many of us tap into it? Many people have said they don’t know how to or what the benefits are. Some people are afraid to let their imagination go. We’re in lockdown. Is this really the time to let our creativity loose? With so much pain around, locked down with our families in our living rooms, how can music help us? These are great questions. My answer is yes, now more than ever is the time to dream and be creative. The lockdown will not last for ever and we need as many foot soldiers as possible to rally the troops and inspire us to keep on going. You only have to see the impact of Dame Vera Lynn on the British troops to see that in action. She brought the music, she brought hope.

We’ve all had that moment when we’ve heard a song for the first time and something magical and earth-shattering happens, the music hits you in a part of your sensory world and it is like no other song you’ve heard.

It energises you and takes you to a place of peace, joy and reflection. It’s as if the song was written for you, how did the writer know?  It’s as if the music transports you into another dimension. It underlines, interprets and sometimes even creates your identity.

One of my favourite songs is “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. I have to admit the minute the first note sounds I’m on the dance floor, fist pumping into the air like the best of them, shouting out the lyrics knowing that the song is interpreting my all in all. When I sing this song publicly, everybody gets up on the floor, even the men, sometimes even the DJ! The song has all the ‘feels’ and all the mood-altering vibes, with foot-stomping rhythm to catapult you into positive thinking. You have no choice but to surrender.

It Fills the Gaps in Our Lives

Imagine a world without music. It’s difficult to do that. No music on the radio, no music on the TV, no birds singing, no choirs, no bands. I feel life would be pretty dull. Music works within all those dimensions and provides that extra expression and platform to set you up for the day. For example, if you wake up feeling exhausted before you even leave your bed, or maybe you’ve woken up with all the preprepared worries of the day rumbling around in your head, never mind your bad breath, it’s your bad head that you also have to contend with.

Well, I can tell you, you’re in good company as many of us wake up feeling that way sometimes. But one day after many crazy mornings waking up like that, I decided to make a change. I realised that how I prepare myself for sleep is very important and that music could play an important part in setting me up for the following day. I literally started going to sleep with some relaxing music, nothing that demanded that I foot-stomp around the bedroom, no call and response songs, just calm, soothing music. I honestly couldn’t believe the transformation after just one night. I started waking up feeling relaxed and refreshed and more often than not, songs from the night before would stay with me throughout the day, like background music in my head, creating a positive flow of well-being.

It’s Your Go-To Secret Weapon

You can literally take music anywhere you go. The trick is to intentionally include it into your daily routine. Don’t leave music as your last option. Maybe you’re facing a difficult Zoom meeting, or you have a lot of prep to do for home schooling, the stress can be overwhelming. Of course, there are times when you need silence (which is equally important) but on the whole music can:

Set the pace of your day, listen to some music before you attend a difficult meeting

Be enjoyed with others, perhaps get your kids to listen and dance to a song with you

Help find the words to express how you feel, write them down

Bring on all the ‘feels’ eg emotion, empathy, compassion, happiness

Help you escape reality (that’s what my daughter says!)

Help you feel more energetic and at peace with yourself and your world

You may want to raid your top collection of old songs or maybe listen out for new and emerging artists of which Coventry has plenty, all with their own unique style and approach to music. Check them out online.

Lockdown has been a struggle for many of us but if you can see music as your Mass Weapon of Well-being and include it into your daily routine, it can change your perspective, do yourself some good and improve your well-being.

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