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Why Giving Up Playing Music When You’ve Grown Up Is Bad For Your Brain

Why Giving Up Playing Music When You’ve Grown Up Is Bad For Your Brain

Do you know that every year, almost 100% of public school students in America begin an instrument if a school music program exists in their school? Yet over 50% of students simply quit a few years later.[1]

Even though parents encourage their children to take up a musical instrument, they never really treat music as important as other subjects. The benefits of learning maths and languages have always been greater than music in parents’ eyes, or even in children’s eyes as they grow up. So grown-ups just quit playing music.

An even more common phenomenon is that, as people grow up, they put off playing music as it doesn’t serve any concrete purpose in their hectic life in which work, vacation, friends and family times are of higher priority.

If you quit playing music because of one of the above reasons, you can’t miss the following findings explained by music educator, Anita Collins. She explained in a TED Ed video how playing instruments benefits our brains and what she says will change the way you look at music:[2]

Music stimulates multiple areas in our brains and strengthens our problem solving skills.

Neuroscientists try to understand how our brains work by monitoring them in real time. Different tasks like painting and reading have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can be observed.

When participants are listening to music while being observed, researchers see that multiple brain areas are being stimulated at once. Our brains process the sound elements like melody and rhythm and put everything together to let us feel the musical experience in just a split second.

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    Researchers also try to observe the brains of people who play music.

    While multiple areas of their brains also light up like music listeners’, playing music engages every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices.

      Playing music combines the brain areas which involve our linguistic and mathematical skills and creativity, utilizing both hemispheres of our brains.

      Therefore, playing music is said to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum. And the enhanced brains allow musicians to apply their strength to other activities including more effectively and creatively solving problems in different settings.

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      People who play music have great memory as they’re used to interlinking messages and emotions in music.

      Music is made up of messages and emotions and therefore, musicians are processing all this information as they play music.

      Musicians often have higher levels of executive function, a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. This ability has an impact on how our memory systems work.

      Music playing comprises a number of memory cues that can trigger our brains to retrieve memories.[3] This maybe able to explain why musicians appear to be used to applying multiple cues when storing memories.

        Musicians tend to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag,and a contextual tag, like a good internet search engine; making creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently

        Now you know how good it is to continue to play musical instruments, I think your next action is pretty clear, right?

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        You don’t need to be talented to play any instrument. Just keep playing.

        All you have to do is to take your first step and take out your instrument.

        What’s your forgotten instrument? The piano that’s always been in your living room? The violin that you’ve put under your bed? Or that guitar you played only over the summer when you were still in university? Pick it up, take it out and clean it.

        I’ve always been playing the piano and drums and I love playing these instruments, but not a lot of people know that I used to play the violin too. My violin was my long-forgotten instrument which I put under my bed.

        Last week, I took out my violin from the dusty box and all the memories of me practicing violin just came back. I cleaned it and tried to tune its sound. (I’d almost forgot how!) Then I picked up my bow, my poor bow with bow hair breaking out, and moved it over the strings…it sounded terrible.

        It sounded terrible because I hadn’t played it for so long, and it’s also because my violin and my bow were all out of maintenance. But all those memories motivated me to take up the instrument again.

        Watch more live music to light your fire.

        Watching or listening to live music has the magic to leave you feeling more motivated than ever to play your own. Every time after watching a live performance of any kind of music, I just want to play my piano when I get back home. And whenever I see the amazing performance by some great violinists, I want to practice my violin and get more skilful in it.

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        Look for musical scores of your favorite music to keep your fire burning.

        This always works. There must be some songs you really love and want to know how to play.

        Look for the musical score on the internet or in the library, that’s how you can keep the fire burning. When you have a goal — to learn to play your favorite songs beautifully, you’ll work hard for it.

        Of course, you have to pay attention to the difficulty level of the piece of music. Don’t push yourself too hard, take it slowly and try to work on the fundamentals first before challenging yourself for some difficult pieces.

        You can watch the whole video on TED Ed here to find out more about the amazing benefits of playing an instrument.

        Featured photo credit: TED Ed via ed.ted.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on February 20, 2019

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

        Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

        Why is this so critically important to you?

        The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

        Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

        1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

        Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

        When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

        • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
        • The man facing the judge.
        • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
        • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
        • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
        • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

        These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

        Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

        Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

        2. Accept Your Fear

        Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

        We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

        And here’s what can be done.

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        3. Get Some Perspective

        I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

        And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

        That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

        We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

        So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

        • Are you really at risk?
        • Will this kill you?
        • Which leads us on to..
        • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

        4. Hold a Hand

        As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

        Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

        We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

        Ask yourself:

        • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
        • Could that really happen?
        • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
        • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

        By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

        5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

        This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

        Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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        The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

        It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

        For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

        Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

        6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

        I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

        Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

        Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

        Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

        Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

        Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

        7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

        Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

        I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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        It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

        One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

        Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

        It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

        8. Assume the Worse

        If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

        Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

        • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
        • Think about how they feel about champagne?
        • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

        And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

        When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

        Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

        9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

        If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

        Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

        Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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        10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

        One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

        11. Go with Fear

        When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

        I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

        Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

        One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

        However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

        We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

        12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

        And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

        The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

        What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

        13. Own Your Fear

        Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

        We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

        You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

        More Resources About Fighting Fear

        Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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