7 Musical Ways to Make Your Holidays Less Stressful

7 Musical Ways

You don’t plan for it to happen, but sometimes the stress creeps in over the holidays.  And your children, being the sensitive little souls that they are, often feel it too, whether they can articulate it or not. So how can you make the holidays a little easier and more enjoyable?  We’re delighted to share seven musical ways to make your holidays less stressful – for you and your child.

Continue reading “7 Musical Ways to Make Your Holidays Less Stressful”

Music as Medicine: Good for Mental Health

music as medicine

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You might know the classic song from Mary Poppins with the line, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”  Well, we’d like to propose that music can be wonderful medicine, especially when it comes to enhancing our mental health.  Let’s explore a few of the many reasons why music is so good for our minds and hearts.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLkp_Dx6VdI”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Increases Dopamine Levels

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects our emotions, behavior, attention, learning, feelings of pleasure and pain, and even our movements.  Research studies have demonstrated that listening to music can increase dopamine levels significantly, providing a documented link between the enjoyment of music and our overall well-being.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Provides an Outlet for Self-expression

The famous quote by Hans Christian Andersen says it best, “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music can help even young children understand how they feel and give them a way to express those feelings, even at a young age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music makes us smile!
Music makes us smile!

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Music Can Help us Relax

In our fast-paced, busy lives, we all need to deliberately make time to just relax and do nothing.  This is especially true for young children and precisely why our Kindermusik classes include listening and quiet time activities with beautiful, gentle music.

Music Can Enhance our Ability to Focus

Sometimes tired or distracted minds just need a little boost, and the right kind of music can do just that.  Classical music and music with no lyrics playing softly in the background does wonders for increasing attention span and improving the brain’s processing efficiency.

Music Connects us with Others

Especially when you share a musical experience with others, like a Kindermusik class, music brings people together and creates opportunities for meaningful social interaction.  In Kindermusik, we purposely include Meet-and-Greet dances and Circle Songs to build a strong sense of friendship and belonging.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Ludwig van Beethoven”]“Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.” [/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Motivates Us

When you’re feeling tired or unmotivated, or you have a child who has trouble getting going, turn on some lively, happy music so that you can help but feel energized! For young children, a routine of using music to get up and going or to make a car ride go faster can make all the difference.

The bottom line?  Music is great medicine! Music has the power to soothe, to inspire, to energize, and so much more, contributing significantly to the health of our mental and emotional well-being, both as children and as adults. The well-known classical composer Ludwig Beethoven put it beautifully, “Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.”   [/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has been a happy advocate for the benefits of music for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How Music Affects your Mood and your Mind

Music and mood

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With over 30 years of observing children and adults in the Kindermusik classroom, we know from experience that music has a huge effect on the emotions. Science and research continue to affirm what we also suspect, and that is that music can significantly impact cognition as well – in the early years and later in life as we age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And so we find articles like Music & the Brain: The Fascinating Ways Music Affects Your Mood and Mind to be very intriguing and incredibly confirming of the wonderful benefits of being enrolled in a music program like Kindermusik.  The author of the article, Barry Goldstein, points out four ways that consistent participation in a “…musical program can target and enhance certain brain functions.”  Here’s a quick summary of those four benefits that Goldstein identifies.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Emotion

Music actually affects the brain emotionally because of the way specific brain circuits are wired to respond to music. The closeness and bonding times that come through singing and dancing together actually release the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” And when listening to music touches us emotionally, it’s because there’s a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, called dopamine, that helps feel the pleasure and connection of music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

music and mood
This little guy has found joy in music making.

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Memory

Even when the mind is debilitated by the effects of Alzheimer’s, it can still be awakened when the patient hears music from his younger years to which he had an emotional connection. One of the most beautiful illustrations of this is an elderly man named Henry who was featured in the movie Alive Inside. Watch this and see if it doesn’t move you to tears! The music we love creates memories that stay with us for all of our lives.

Check out this charming older couple making music together.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI-l0tK8Ok0″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Learning and Neuroplasticity

Did you know that the brain can literally reorganize itself by forming new neural connections?  And that the formation of new neural connections can be significantly affected by music?  We see this documented in extreme cases of brain damage when music is one of the stimuli used to cause the brain to rewire itself.  For example, music therapy and singing were instrumental in helping former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords learn how to speak again.  If music has this kind of powerful effect on a brain that’s suffered trauma, just think of what effects music can have on a healthy brain![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Gabrielle Giffords used music therapy as part of her recovery process.
Gabrielle Giffords used music therapy as part of her recovery process.

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Attention

Unlike any other medium, music has the unique capability o capture our full attention, and as a result, can “activate, sustain, and improve our attention.”  In a culture that’s full of distractions, the ability to focus our busy minds and allow our brains and our hearts to connect, we can find true balance and deep-seated joy.  This wonderful phenomenon can occur for both adults and children alike.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]All of this research and brain “stuff” can be a little dry; we admit it. But it also underscores the amazing and powerful effects of music, no matter what age or what stage of development the mind and emotions are in. Understanding a little of the science behind the powerful effects of music on our minds and emotions makes it all the more meaningful when experience music together in our Kindermusik classes. It reinforces again the immeasurable and lifelong value of early childhood music classes – something the children adore and memories that we as adults can hold in our hearts long after those precious years of childhood are left behind.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has given her a heart full of songs and musical memories that she knows she’ll enjoy for the rest of her life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music Listening With Your Kids: Find the Center

Music Listening

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One afternoon, I walked into the living room and my very active 3-year-old daughter was just laying on the couch with a blanket. “What are you doing? Are you OK?” I asked her. “Yes mama, I’m just listening to the music,” she replied. And she stayed there for a good 20 minutes. Mind you, this is the child who barely sat down for more than 30 seconds at a time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Listening to music is something of a lost art. Taking the time to just LISTEN with your child can help you to reconnect after a long day and teaches them that listening to music can be the main activity and not just background noise. Babies and young children especially benefit from mindfully listening to music. We forget that they are also exposed to stressors during their day and that relaxation is a LEARNED skill that we need to teach. It doesn’t have to be very long, try listening to 1 or 2 songs, especially if your child is very young and on the move! The idea isn’t to get them to “sit down and listen,” but to create an environment where they are able to enjoy the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music Listening[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

A Few Tips for Mindful Music Listening

  • Start the music and then put your phone and all other technology away and out of sight.
  • Make eye contact with your child and smile.
  • If your child needs movement, try rocking with them on your legs.
  • Add some intentional touch such as rubbing their back or ears, or massaging their feet.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Quietly talk about the music. What instruments are being used? Is it a man or a woman singing? Is the music fast or slow? Does it sound happy or sad? If there are words, what language are they speaking? Even babies and toddlers benefit from you labeling these sounds for them, and children in preschool and beyond will enjoy having a conversation about the music they are hearing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make music listening a special part of your daily rituals, whether it’s when you come home from work, or before bedtime. Your entire family will benefit from a few minutes of mindful music listening![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Jessica Solares | Bucktown Music
The Solares family at their Chicago studio, Bucktown Music

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Jessica Solares and her husband Luis own Bucktown Music in Chicago, IL, which is recognized by Kindermusik International as one of the top studios in the world. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College and has been a licensed Kindermusik educator since 2008. She joined the Kindermusik University teacher training team in 2016 and is proudly sharing her expertise with the newest generation of Kindermusik educators![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Reunited: A Short Film About Music and the Human Spirit

spirit

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Friends, I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll continue to say it: music is magic. Below, you’ll find a short, five-minute film about Edward Hardy, a retiree in Somerset, England, and Sam Kinsella, a young man looking for a few extra bucks. Sam’s search lead him to Mellifont Abbey, a residential care facility in Somerset and the position of activities coordinator. What happened next was nothing short of amazing, a word that gets tossed around a bit too casually for my taste. But for Sam and Mr. Hardy, no other word will do. Together, they discovered how music can heal the spirit.

Mr. Hardy had been suffering from dementia for some time. He would pound on the floor and call for help for no reason. His interaction with others was limited and strained. He was depressed and detached.

Sam eventually disclosed to Mr. Hardy that he was part of a band in Somerset. This bit of information seemed to pique Mr. Hardy’s interest. He told Sam that he played piano for years.

This gave Sam an idea. He had a keyboard brought in for Mr. Hardy. This was the beginning of a new light in the 93 year-old’s life. To everyone’s surprise, Mr. Hardy came out of his shell and played for everyone.

But Sam wasn’t done.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Spirit
Mr. Hardy plays with former bandmates.

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We’re Getting the Band Back Together!

Sam decided to seek out some local musicians so Mr. Hardy could make music with a group again. People came out of the woodwork to make music with Mr. Hardy. To Sam’s surprise, among them were some of the original members of Mr. Hardy’s band. They gladly came out to Mellifont Abbey for a jam session. You’ll see Mr. Hardy make music with them in the film, and the obvious joy on his face when he does.

This lead to the idea of having the newly reformed group give a concert at Mellifont. This not only brought joy to Mr. Hardy, but to the other residents as well.

Mr. Hardy’s story was featured on the BBC and other news sites across the UK. Music, that magical art form, is now a more regular part of life at Mellifont Abbey. And Mr. Hardy, he found a little bit of himself that was lost.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Tp6c_oG1SBk”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1500644816485{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music Therapy: Music as Medicine

Brain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music Therapy – it’s been around for some time…let’s say as long as we’ve had music. As a credentialed profession, it’s still relatively new. The first program to award a degree in music therapy began at Michigan State University in 1944. The American Music Therapy Association came into being in 1998. To many, the profession is still a mystery. It isn’t simply singing someone to sleep or teaching a person how to play a few chords on an ukulele. From the AMTA’s website:

Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.

In a recent article over at Science Times, writer Jezreel Smith detailed the use of music therapy’s use in reducing pain.


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A Natural Analgesic

“Music therapy should be added to postoperative pain treatment as it been found to decrease pain in patients recovering from spine surgery.”

– Jezreel Smith

The Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine conducted a study which explored the effects of music therapy on pain levels in 30 post-operative spine surgery patients. In addition to standard post-operative care, 30 minute music therapy sessions were included.

You’ve probably seen a version of the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for pain in your doctor’s office or at a hospital. The subjects of the study were asked to rate their pain using the VAS before and after music therapy was introduced. Members of the group which received music therapy had a reduction of more than a point on the pain scale, while the control group, 30 subjects who only received regular post-operative care without music therapy, saw a rise of just over a half point.

Pain Scale
The Visual Analog Scale used in many medical settings.

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The Power of Music

What does this study tell us? It confirms the power of music, its impact on the brain and how it processes pain, and and music therapy’s value in helping patients comfortably recover from surgery. This is only one area in which music therapy has been successful applied. You’ll find music therapists in a wide range of settings: in schools working with differently abled students, such as kids on the autism spectrum; in nursing homes, helping residents maintain or even increase mental, physical and emotional functioning; in mental health facilities, aiding patients as they process emotions and work to resolve conflict.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE6JbAAIbJQ”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

For More Information on Music Therapy…

Interested in learning more about what music therapy is or what music therapists do? Check out the American Music Therapy Association’s website. It is full of wonderful information regarding the profession. There’s a great FAQ page than answers many questions and an entire section on research.

We have been using music as medicine as long as music has been around, and like many ancient practices, it continues to be refined as we learn more. Music Therapists are becoming more common in a host of settings. We are a musical people, and the greater connection we have to the art form, the larger the positive impact it can have on our lives.

I’ve said it before friends, music is magic.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sing and Dance that Stress Away

Music and movement stress

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Stress. We all deal with it from time to time….and friends, so do our kids. Don’t forget – we have a lifetime of experience in managing stress – and even then we can have a hard time with it. Our kids deal with stress, too…and they are stress novices. It’s up to us to help them develop the skills and methods to cope with stress in their young lives. As it turns out, and this is in no way by accident, music and movement, the very things at which we are experts, are fantastic ways to alleviate stress. Science lights the way. Let’s check it out!


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You Can’t Protect Them from Stress – But You Can Help Them Manage It

It’s going to happen. We want to be the shield that blocks out every negative thing in the world for our kids – but this is an emotional response. We hate to see them struggle. Remember, you aren’t always going to be there. So providing tools to manage stress when it crops up is incredibly important.

Encourage your child to name the stressor out loud – to label it. When you take time to listen, listen to understand rather than to respond. A child will sense that how they are feeling is important to you and will be more likely to share those feelings. The very fact that you are listening will have a positive effect on the child’s stress level.

But what about movement and music? How does that impact stress levels?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Dance Lowers Cortisol Levels and Increases Endorphins

Here’s the science: dancing actually lowers levels of cortisol in the body. While cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, does many other things for us, it is associated with stress. High stress leads to high levels of cortisol which can lead to reduced immune system function. So…dancing can reduce the presence of cortisol in the system that otherwise might negatively impact your ability to fight off a cold or fight infection.

Dancing also causes the body to produce endorphins, which basically run interference with pain receptors and cause feelings of euphoria, reducing both physical and emotional pain. It’s our body’s way of self-regulating. Kids can get their own body on their side in dealing with stress levels – literally by dancing the stress away (or at the very least reducing its negative effects).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Sing and Dance that Stress Away
Kindermusik kids movin’ and groovin’!

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Dancing with Others = Added Benefits

Guess what? When you dance, it feels good. When you dance with others, the benefits increase. The University of Oxford recently conducted a study about dancing in groups verses dancing alone. The results were quite interesting:

So when the volunteers were taught the same dance moves and heard the same songs as the others, their movements synchronized on the dance floor. Now, afterwards, these volunteers were able to withstand significantly more pain. Their threshold for pain increased.

By contrast, the volunteers who heard different songs or were taught different dance moves to the same music didn’t synchronize their movements. These volunteers experienced either no change in their pain perception or an increase in their pain perception. They actually felt more pain than they did before…

As a social species, being part of a group has survival value. Evolution also may have adapted the brain to experience a sense of reward when we did things with and for other people. Dancing together, especially in the synchrony, can signal that you are actually simpatico with lots of other people. The researchers think this is why so many cultures have synchronized dancing and why it might have health benefits.

NPR: Steve Inskeep’s Interview with social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam

So – when you dance with a group – to the same music, these benefits really show themselves. Another study from West Chester University of Pennsylvania has shown that dance and music programs significantly lower cortisol levels in children from low-income families and “alleviate the impact of poverty on children’s physiological functioning.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

And How Does Music Fit In?

As it turns out – singing and dancing are twins. They are both art forms that are temporal, meaning they unfold and reveal their beauty over time. They are dynamic. They change. They engage the entire body and mind. They both require conscious control over the breath. The breath must be purposeful to have enough fuel to do the task at hand. All the mental health benefits of dance can be found in singing – increased endorphins and lower cortisol levels among them. When making music with a group, empathy for those around you increases and heartbeats become synchronized (a really amazing phenomenon called biological entrainment – we’ll talk about that some other time!). We talk about this often; here’s a breakdown from a previous Minds on Music post:

The Combination of Movement and Music develops:

  • The Vestibular System.

A well-developed vestibular system provides emotional security, good muscle tone, develops auditory language processing, visual-spatial processing, and reduced cortisol levels.

  • Neural Pathways.

Moving in a variety of ways gives your child a chance to ‘see the world’ from many perspectives, thus strengthening neural pathways, which carry messages from your child’s mind, guiding her senses and motor skills.

  • Fine Motor Skills.

During the first part of life, we’re learning to walk, so gross motor activities dominate the child’s movement. Now she can focus on activities that encourage the development of fine muscles, so she can increase skills that require finger and hand movements such as putting together a simple puzzle, painting with a paintbrush, turning a page of a book or stringing beads.

  • Physical Confidence.

Body awareness is important in the development of the child’s physical confidence. This developmental goal may be met by engaging in movement activities which focus on body part movement, whole body movement in one place, and whole body movement while traveling in space.

  • Creativity and Imagination.

Listening and responding to music and movement activities helps develop pretend play skills while also helping your child assimilate music and movement concepts such as fast, slow, loud, quiet, bumpy, smooth, straight and curvy.

  • Thinking Skills.

While in motion, the brain acts like a flight simulator, constantly inventing, moving mental models to project onto a changing world. This is an extraordinary mentally complex operation which builds thinking skills.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A child that can express herself when dealing with stress, and then have an outlet to safely and physically work that stress out, encouraging the body to self-regulate, is a happier child. A child that has the opportunity to sing and dance with others develops empathic skills that allow him to see the world from the perspective of his friends. To put this in the simplest terms, a dancing and singing child is a healthier child, a child who deals with stress much more effectively.

And by the way…this applies to us, too, my friends. Sing and dance with your child! You might even laugh a bit…and that’s healthy, too![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]


 

For more info on dance and stress, check out Yami Joshi’s TEDTalk on Dance and Stress.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVC0uMugtEk”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music Therapy for Babies

Music Therapy

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What has been one of the most effective treatments for babies born prematurely? You guessed it – music!

In fact, Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital of Fudan University regularly uses music therapy “…to help premature babies to speed up nerve cell repairing and development…“, more proof of the power of music to activate and enhance brain activity and development.

Various clinical trials have recently revealed that the sound of mom or dad singing can stabilize the breathing and heart rates of babies born prematurely.  And there’s benefit for mom and dad too who report that their own stress levels were lowered as they sang to their little ones, promoting greater bonding and attachment between parents and preemies.

Other music therapy interventions, specifically the use of live music, have been found to “…increase a premature infant’s capacity to feed, sleep, and self-regulate…”, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If music has this kind of power to affect premature babies who are at their most vulnerable, think of the impact music can have on a little one who is not facing the challenges that come with being born prematurely!

Your child doesn’t have to be a preemie to benefit from music, and you don’t have to go to music therapy to benefit either.  You can just enroll in Kindermusik classes!  It’s all about opening the window of opportunity early, when the brain is most receptive to learning and growing and when little hearts can be most affected by the powerful combination of music, movement, and a whole lot of love from some really special people – engaged parents and a nurturing Kindermusik educator.  


Shared by Theresa Case, Kindermusik Educator & director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]