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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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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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