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How Playing Music Makes Your Life Much Better In All Aspects

How Playing Music Makes Your Life Much Better In All Aspects

I don’t need any empirical evidence to convince you that playing music can improve your life. But playing a musical instrument is more beneficial than simply being an enjoyable activity. Children who grew up with an instrument in their hand are easily able to translate the skills used while rocking out into other aspects of life, making them more apt to succeed in school and their future careers. Besides the ability to entertain a crowd, musicians also show signs of:

1. It increases memory

In a study of 3 and 4 year old children, those who were given keyboard lessons performed 34% better on memory assessments than children who were not given musical lessons. The effects of this experiment also proved to last longer than a superficial amount of time. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in some way as well. I haven’t played piano seriously in years, but whenever I sit down at one, my ability to recall the songs I used to know by heart comes right back to me. And even if you don’t play an instrument, I guarantee you know the words to songs you haven’t heard in years, even if you can’t remember what you had for breakfast this morning.

2. It makes you better at organizational skills

When I was in band throughout grade school, we had a strict regimen that we followed every day: Tune up, play scales to warm up, practice techniques, practice songs. It would make no sense to skip right to practicing songs, because we’d all be out of tune, our fingers wouldn’t be stretched out, and we wouldn’t be practicing the correct methods of playing. We didn’t waste any time during these steps, either. Our time was short, so we needed to be organized.

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3. It improves team skills

If you play music, chances are you play with a group of people. Regardless of how talented you are, being a part of a band or orchestra means playing your part in a group. You might not always get to show off or be the center of attention, but as a member of a team your goal is to help the entire group do its best. You have to know when it’s appropriate to take center stage, and when you need to fade into the background.

4. It increases perseverance

If you don’t play an instrument, you probably think it’s hard to do. If you do play an instrument, you know it’s hard to do, but you don’t let the difficulty of reaching the next level stop you from getting there. In fact, you treat barriers in your talent as hurdles that can be overcome with practice and patience. This can help later in life, as you will undoubtedly face obstacles that can only be overcome through hard work and perseverance.

5. It enhances coordination

Playing an instrument requires different parts of your body to work in complete harmony. If you play guitar, your left hand has to finger chords while your right one strums and picks the strings. And you might end up singing, too. Oh, and you almost might have to read music and lyrics off a page at the same time. Throughout this process, your brain makes connections that simply don’t happen when you’re staring at a TV screen.

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6. It gives you better math skills

Music uses simple and advanced mathematics in a variety of ways. Young children who have been introduced to quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes will almost certainly have a head start when their math teacher introduces fractions. Music theory also correlates with advanced mathematical techniques which I still have a tough time wrapping my head around, so I won’t attempt to explain them here. Suffice it to say, those who have a deep understanding of one of the subjects will most likely succeed in the other.

7. It improves reading and comprehension skills

The connections your brain makes while playing music translate well into reading skills as well. According to a study for Psychology of Music, “Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” While playing musical instruments, both sides of the brain make various connections, enhancing vocabulary and verbal sequencing.

8. It gives you increased responsibility

Having a musical instrument to take care of is an incredible responsibility. If you’re really into playing, you no doubt treat your instrument like a member of your family, and will keep it safe from dings and dents at any cost. As a child, you also have to remember to bring it home to practice and bring it back to school the following day. You also have to keep track of your music, practice records, and everything else involved with being a musician.

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9. It increases discipline

Along with more responsibility, musicians also have increased discipline. You won’t get any better if you don’t practice routinely. And you won’t practice well if you do it on someone else’s terms. You need to be able to schedule your own practice sessions, and keep yourself on track during those sessions. No matter how naturally talented you are, if you don’t put in the effort to get better, you won’t improve.

10. It sharpens concentration

Bands like The Grateful Dead get a bad rap for being aloof hippies living in a cloud of illegal substances. But it takes immense talent and concentration to play music for hours on end and maintain the ability to perform well. Musicians have to stay completely on point with the other members of the band at all times, taking visual and aural clues from each other without pause. When’s the last time you sat down and did anything for more than 30 minutes at a time without checking your phone? Hippies: 1, Everyone else: 0

11. It increases self-expression

Music is an art. It allows us to express ourselves in meaningful ways that can be exhilarating and therapeutic at the same time. If you’re not afraid to get up on stage and bare your soul through song, chances are you’re not afraid to speak up for what you believe in at other times in life. Performing for a group of people instills a sense of confidence and self-worth in musicians that they carry with them forever.

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12. It improves social skills

With the exception of Oasis, most band members get along swimmingly with each other. Not only do they get along with each other, but fans of music generally understand each other a bit more, and are more apt to engage in conversation with like-minded individuals. Most band members share common goals or messages they wish to impart to their fans, as well, and will work together to make their voices heard.

13. It sharpens listening skills

This should come as no surprise, but if you want to succeed as a musician, you have to be a good listener. Like I said before, you have to be able to communicate with band members through audible changes in tone and volume. Of course, you have to have a good ear for the right note for the right situation. Musicians gain this ability by listening to countless others who have paved the way for others to succeed.

14. It exposes you to various cultures

Music is the language of the world. Although it may be expressed through different instruments, and many different cultures have different methods of playing, music can be universally understood by anyone willing to listen. True musicians are open to all different kinds of music, and can appreciate that which is outside of their normal range of taste. Because of this, musicians often find the common ground between a variety of cultures.

15. It increases happiness and self-worth

If the last 14 points haven’t made it clear, playing music is hard work. But it’s also extremely rewarding. Musicians truly love creating music for others, and for themselves, to enjoy. To a musician, there’s nothing more transcendent than playing just the right note that can give a room full of people the chills.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm9.staticflickr.com

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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