Music as Medicine can Help you Feel Well

Music as Medicine can Help you Feel Well

Music is magnificent. Music as medicine is free of all unpleasant side-effects! It can sooth, relax, enliven, energise and move us to dance. It evokes memories, provides an atmosphere, enhances a celebration, sends a message and facilitates the expression of our emotions. Music can help us journey to other worlds, create imagery, bring people together, and even shift energy blockages.

Music as medicine
I often take music for granted but it is something I am actually truly grateful for. Playing instruments was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.
I can remember practising for music exams an hour each day and finding it so calming and meditative. That was before I even knew what meditation was! I am sad I haven’t carried that on into adulthood, although there is still time to get back on that horse, even though it doesn’t feel like it!
There was a time in my 20s when I realised that I wasn’t at ease unless there was some background noise, such as the radio or television. I was aware that this was not healthy to be uncomfortable with silence, so I made a conscious effort to switch everything off and I grew to really love silence. In the years that followed, I was training in sound therapy and was very focused on sound but still did not listen to any music at home anymore. It didn’t hold any interest for me anymore strangely and I seemed to be more attuned to pure frequencies, so would enjoy toning, drumming and playing my singing bowls at home but again was mostly in silence.
Then one day we had to pick a few pieces of music to listen to as homework for the course. We had to lie down with closed eyes and really listen to the tracks with every part of our being. It was a very moving experience and I had profound emotions, sensations and memories arising whilst listening. It reminded me of the power that music holds and I have brought it back into my life again at times when it feels right. However, mostly I have to admit I am still quite hooked on the silence when I am at home. Maybe it is a response to a noisy family life!

As a trained sound therapist I have experienced the power of sound to heal first hand and witnessed my clients having breakthroughs physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In 2013 Lyz Cooper of BAST (British Academy of Sound Therapy) teamed up with Marconi Union to produce a piece of music. The intention was to make the track as relaxing as possible. The scientific research done on the track afterwards showed that it was the most relaxing piece of music they had found. Amazing! The track was embedded with healing frequencies and rhythms that sound therapists use regularly. It was interesting to me that even played through digital music players, the effects of the sacred sound frequencies still had the power to relax the listener very significantly.

 

Here is the full length 31 minute extended version of the track if you would like to kick back and have a listen.

Prepare to be very very relaxed!!

 

 

This year Lyz Cooper produced another track with duo Silence & Air to help people enjoy a restful sleep. I was part of the research study group and I have to say that when I listened to it before bed it definitely helped get to sleep quickly and have a deep restful sleep. The results of the research on this track were also highly significant. You can learn more about the study here and listen to the track for yourself. For more information about ways in which to enjoy restful sleep, have a look at my post on 8 easy ways to get more rest.
Music as mecicine

Examples of music as medicine:

I have a wonderful friend who has sadly experienced ME/CFS and PTSD amongst other physical imbalances of many years. She decided in the last year to take up her practice of piano playing again after having not played for many years. Therapy, acupuncture and hypnotherapy led her to this point of being able to clear the blocks that were stopping her from playing. Her experience has been that the playing of music has incredibly healing for her.
She has shared that it helped her unlock her heart blockages and release fear and trauma. It helped her express her emotions non-verbally and stimulated her creativity when she was improvising. She also finds the regularity and stability of practising pieces and scales very balancing and comforting. I wonder if she has benefited from the right/left brain balancing that is inherent in playing with both hands as she says that she finds it easier to focus and her brain fog has lessened. She has also built up some strength in her hands and wrists which previously caused her a lot of pain. It has brought her a purpose for living again when confined to indoors with ME so much of the time. Of course, the music that arises also brings her joy, as it did me when I heard her playing her beautiful pieces.
“Sound is the force of creation, the true whole. Music then, becomes the voice of the great cosmic oneness and therefore the optimal way to reach this final state of healing.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927)
 
Music as mecicine
I know of another young man who used his music to survive his schizophrenia. It helped him push the voices away and soothed his troubled mind at a time when his medication was not working well. For him, music was essential to help him navigate his illness.
My husband Anthony has always played the guitar and spent many happy years busking on his travels. Since we have been together I have always noticed that when he is feeling down, he will pick up his guitar and play and sing and it soothes and uplifts him. I think that the guitar is especially healing in this way as the vibrations emanate directly from the body of the guitar which is resting on the player’s abdomen.
Music as mecicine

My vision of music as medicine in the future:

The future of medicine could be the application of sound frequencies to clear blockages and restore healthy energy. Imagine a device installed in your home that would scan your bodies energy and then emit the frequencies you needed to rebalance yourself embedded in a piece of relaxing music that would be played throughout your home. How cool would that be?!
“Eventually, musical therapists will compose prescriptions after the manner of a pharmacist…”
Dr. Ira Altschuler (of the Eloise State Hospital) (1942)

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How to keep that holiday feeling!

How to keep that holiday feeling!

I just had the pleasure of a holiday in Gran Canaria with my family. We were given the opportunity to stay in a five-star hotel by an incredibly generous friend and it was wonderful. (Thank you, dear friend).  Of course, there were the usual family holiday calamities, one son with a 24hr fever and sickness, another son with a sprained ankle and my husband giving himself a whiplash injury and misaligned vertebrae after being dared to ride the “Take-off” waterslide at the waterpark on our last day. Needless to say, he took off. Then he landed. He was in a lot of pain for over a week, bless him. Amazingly, for once, I was the one that stayed well and injury-free. It might have something to do with the fact that I barely left my sun lounger but hey, I was practising relaxing! Now that I am back home, I am practising hanging on to that lovely holiday feeling and it is challenging!
holiday feeling
So we had a lovely time (mostly) and had begun to sink into a more relaxed way of being after 10 days. It can take a while to slow down from the crazy pace of modern life but we were enjoying that process. Lots of sunbathing, swimming and a few glasses of Rosé definitely helped! Also, the little health setbacks meant that we couldn’t do many day trips and so were forced to just spend more time around the pool, and reading on the balcony which was no hardship!
 “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”           John Lubboc 
holiday feeling

Time to go home!

Here is how to know your holiday is over!

1) Mess up by only downloading 1 boarding card onto your phone the night before leaving.
2) Have the lady at the check-in desk (of a well-known budget Irish airline) insist on you removing 3 kg from your case despite the flight being less than half full. (How I love to open my case full of laundry and medicines for all the queue to see at 5.30am.)
3) Have the lady at the check-in desk put one case through but not the other as only one boarding pass on your phone.
4) Make sure your phone starts to get buggy and malfunction, and the airport wifi is chronically intermittent.
6) Start to panic as time is marching on.
7) Watch helplessly as three guys with surfboards to check-in are next in line.
8) Watch more time tick past as you frustratingly try to download the airline app the lady is insisting on you having.
9) Start feeling like crying as your children watch you getting more stressed and panicky.
10) Finally get to the front of the queue again to be told the gate is closing despite the fact you have been stood there for an hour trying to sort it out.
11) Scoot over to the main desk with teary wide-eyed children to plead with the irritated flight manager. Cue angry phone conversation in Spanish.
12) Run back to the check-in desk to finally receive boarding cards and sprint to the gate, as best you can with injured family members and stiff joints.
13) Breathlessly explain to the non-plussed, chilled and smiley gate attendant your 60-second version of events, to be told that the gate is still open and not to worry!! Grr!
14) Spend the first 60 mins of your flight deep breathing to normalise your adrenaline levels and calm the hell down.
15) Land back home with the sketchiest bumpiest touchdown ever!
16) Travel on 4 separate trains to get back home with kids, footballs and multiple bags in tow.
17) Send your husband off to the chiropractor and sit down with a cup of tea to open your mail.
18) Open the first letter to find out that you have been given 2 months notice to move out of your house …

Welcome Home!

Was it worth it?
Of course!
(After all, it wasn’t quite as stressful as the time we went to Portugal and our eldest son developed concussion two hours before we were due to leave for our return flight. Cue an ambulance ride, lots of explanations in bad Spanish from us, a crazy rushed drive to the airport, followed by us hurriedly cleaning vomit from the hire car at the last minute! But hey that’s a whole other story!)
holiday feeling

How to keep that holiday feeling!

So, I have decided to do the following to keep my holiday feeling going (despite everything!):

  • Get outside in the sun as often as possible, but also whatever the weather.
  • Be in nature, forests and by the sea often.
  • Eat outside when possible and make new exotic recipes.
  • Go swimming as often as possible. (We have a new Lido that has opened up near us that we can go and check out.)
  • Make Mocktails so that you are having fun drinks, but without the excess alcohol.
  • Stay away from too much telly and devices.
  • Keep reading more as it is very relaxing, enjoyable and creatively stimulating.
  • Go on some day trips to new places.
  • Get some of your best holiday photos printed and in frames so that you can enjoy the memories.
  • Do things each day that make you happy!

 

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8 easy ways to get more rest

8 easy ways to get more rest

Tips for Blissful Recharging

If you are one of the millions of people who don’t get enough rest and proper sleep, I really do feel for you. Resting well is vital for mental, emotional and physical health and well-being. When you are chronically sleep deprived, your cortisol and stress levels start to rise. Sleep is how the body processes the emotions of the day and repairs and heals itself. It is horrendous to wake up in the morning after a night of tossing and turning, to realise that it is time for daytime activities and you don’t feel any more rested than the night before. On the occasions when I have felt like this, I have felt very downhearted and emotional and, frankly, unable to cope. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research in 2006 shows that cognitive functions known to be mediated by a part of the prefrontal cortex, including judgment and decision making, may be vulnerable to sleep loss and that this gets worse with increased age.* Sleep deprivation is a known torture method for good reason!

What if planning your rest more effectively, as you might do for your Christmas shopping or your next trip away, might enable you to really gain a deep level of rest and rejuvenation? It has to be worth a try!

So here are 8 easy ways to encourage rejuvenating sleep and resting well!

1) First has got to be the sensible bedtime routine. I know, I know, it’s boring and you want to stay up and watch box sets or surf online. If you have kids,it’s your only adult time, but getting to bed before 10pm is hugely important. Ayurvedic medicine tells us that we should have 2 hours sleep before midnight as that is the most restful sleep. It is also the time when you are most likely to drift off. After that, you risk hitting your second wind and then it is much more difficult. So get the screens turned off at 9pm and use that last hour to do something nurturing. An Epsom salts bath is a fantastic way to ease aching muscles and get more much needed magnesium into the system. Just make sure you are warm and well covered up on the way to bed as the Epsom salts can make you more susceptible to getting chilled.

There are some great apps (such as Flux and Twilight) to reduce the blue glow from devices so that the screen colour balance changes in a more natural way in the evenings to avoid over stimulation. Of course, eating a heavy meal in the evening is not conducive to resting well either, so aim to eat the biggest meal of the day at lunchtime and have a lighter early evening meal. Also, no caffeine consumption after 3pm. Enjoy your coffee in the morning!  Keep your bedroom dark with blackout curtains or invest in an eye mask. A milky drink is also a great way to induce that cosy feeling of sleepiness. Avoid the dairy and make a wonderful mug of Golden Milk (recipe here), which will also be anti-inflammatory. Or try almond milk with a grating of nutmeg and cardamom..delicious!.

Final points..Turn off the wifi and leave the mobile phone at the door. Your bedroom is a sanctuary!

2) Energetically clear your bedroom.

If the air and energy in your bedroom are stale and stagnant, it is not going to feel like a haven of relaxation. Firstly, get the windows open and give your room a good declutter and clean. Make sure there is space under the bed to allow for the free flow of energy and air under there. There are different ways to cleanse the room energetically.

Smudging:

I use a combination of sound and sage. Aromatic sage smoke has been used to clear energy since ancient times and a study in 2007** showed how it is possible to use medicinal smoke to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within a confined space. Burn the sage in a fire-safe container (I use a big abalone shell), and walk around the room, allowing the sweet smelling smoke to get right into the corners of the room where dense energy tends to collect. Make sure to also do the surface of the mattress and under the bed. When we are sleeping on a mattress night after night, the mattress collects our energies and can be holding a lot of negativity. Go around afterwards with a drum or a bell, or a singing bowl and refine the energy, holding the intention that all dense energy be cleared.

8 easy ways to get more rest

3) Healthy bedding

If you are sleeping on an old pillow that is full of dust, dribble and skin flakes (yuck!) , chances are that you won’t be having the best nights sleep. Pillows should be the shape and size that is most comfortable for you, clean, organic and ideally hypo-allergenic. Particularly when you have multiple chemical sensitivities, the gaseous chemicals that emanate from a mattress can be a problem, stopping you from resting well. Where possible, buy an organic mattress too. If not, at least keep it really well vacuumed, and covered with an anti-allergenic mattress protector.

4) Aromatherapy

Initial research conducted in the UK in 2005 showed that Lavender is effective in improving insomnia symptoms.*** Sprinkling a couple of drops on your pillow or on your temples is a really simple way to induce relaxation,sleep and resting well. There are a huge variety of great oil diffusers now available and there are other oils such as Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood and Vetiver which also help to calm busy minds. Why not have a look on Pinterest and find a great recipe for making your own sleep blend to diffuse?

5)  Grounding

It is vital for our energies to be grounded to the earth. We need to be in harmony with the earth’s frequencies in order to be healthy. Astronauts even have the Schumann frequency (The frequency of the Earth’s ionosphere) beamed into their spacecrafts so that they stay healthy. The first astronauts in space became very ill when they were away from the earth until this frequency was added. We are part of the earth and the maelstrom of electromagnetic frequencies we are exposed to these days is enormous.

 

Children who have wifi in their schools and at home may be subject to these disturbing frequencies virtually 24/7. We need to get our feet on the grass or earth and spend a few minutes reconnecting with her. It is a brilliant way to reduce the pain of a headache and calm a very busy mind. “It’s too cold” I hear you cry! It’s OK to wear socks or even shoes or slippers with leather soles as these will still allow the grounding to take place. So kick off those Crocs and get your feet back on the earth every day. You will sleep so much better! (Post on peacefulness and a grounding meditation with solfeggio frequencies..coming soon.)

8 easy ways to get more rest

6) Restorative Yoga

There are other ways to rest apart from sleeping. Encouraging the body into a place of deep relaxation is another way of resting well. Restorative yoga is a very gentle practice in which you use supports and props and allow complete relaxation in a pose which lasts up to five minutes. It decreases stress, helps people heal from illness and increases flexibility as well as allowing deep rest and helping with insomnia.

7) Sound therapy What the heck is that? Well.. sound has been used since ancient times to bring healing and balance back to the body, mind, spirit and emotions. It is incredibly powerful as it saturates every cell in the body. If you have ever been to a classical concert or experienced a gong being played, you will have felt the sound vibrations flowing through your body. Sound can rebalance our brain hemispheres, lower our brainwave states into very relaxed frequencies that allow healing to occur, and is a great way of resting well without actually being asleep. Although, if sleep comes, that’s great too! We are blessed as humans in that we can sing and tone. You don’t need to be a great singer to use this wonderful instrument we have been given! One way to decrease stress and release negative emotion is to tone on an “AH” sound. Take a deep breath in and put your hand on your heart. Pick any note and tone”AHHHHHH” as you extend your hand out in front of you. This helps to open and clear the heart chakra and release stress and sadness. Think of it as a long sigh with the mouth wide open. You can experiment with the note, see what feels good. Ask your body what sound it wants to make in that moment. Experiment. Doing this a few times a day will create a profound shift for you.

Healing Sounds:

Other ways to utilise the power of sound therapy are to listen to healing pieces of music, I particularly recommend music by Fabien Maman and Jonathan Goldman. You could also look for sound therapy practitioners in your area. For further information on sound therapy check out my sound therapy website.

8 easy ways to get more rest

8) Meditation

Yes, you knew it was coming.. The multitude of evidence of the benefits of meditation can not be ignored. It will reduce stress, calm a cluttered mind and even help you nod off to sleep. There is a huge wealth of information on meditation online but I would just like to emphasise that it can be as simple as taking 5 minutes when you wake or at work just to slow the breath and take some deeper belly breaths. Even when the distracting thoughts come, this is part of the process. Noticing that you have run off after some train of thought is part of the skill of meditation, and it will happen often as a beginner. Don’t be discouraged: it is like anything, practice is necessary to improve.

Some people find it easier to meditate in different ways. Walking, eating, singing mantras, even doing the washing up can be done mindfully and with total awareness so that it becomes a meditation. Find the type that works for you personally. It may be different on different days, or you may need to adapt your practice around your current life circumstances but it will help you to be calmer, less reactive and sleep better.  See the video below of my friend Lilith of The Sacred Blueprint doing a washing up meditation.Why not give it a try by downloading a mindfulness app onto your phone or just sitting for 5 or 10 minutes in bed wrapped up in a blanket before sleep. Really bring your full consciousness to the sensations in your body as you breathe slowly and deeply as a way to ease you into a sleepy state.

*KILLGORE, W. D. S., BALKIN, T. J. and WESENSTEN, N. J. (2006), Impaired decision making following 49 h of sleep deprivation. Journal of Sleep Research, 15: 7–13. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2006.00487.x
**J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Dec 3;114(3):446-51. Epub 2007 Aug 28. PMID:17913417
***  http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2005.11.631

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