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The Top 17 Ways Learning a Musical Instrument Gives You The Edge

The Top 17 Ways Learning a Musical Instrument Gives You The Edge

Music is a powerful weapon and in the right hands it can be a great force for good. It has the power to bring people to their feet, bring them together, separate them, enrage them, or fill them with fervor for a just cause. It can be calming, bring one to tears, and even make one fall in love. It is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. I have been a musician from the day I was born and have been performing since I was a young child. Currently I teach music and play several different instruments. Every day I get to see the changes in the people I teach and it is like watching a young peacock open his tail feathers for the first time. We have all heard various opinions and studies about the correlation of music study and brain function. There is no denying that the study of music increases the general ability to learn in children and there are many theories as to why this is so. Quite aside from these ideas that have been kicking around for some time, there are many other benefits of playing a musical instrument. Some may surprise you!

1. Music is a direct expression from soul to soul.

There are no words that can say what music can. It is no secret that when we hear someone play or sing, we feel as though we really know that person. And we do, much more intimately than if we had a conversation with them. People inherently love and respect musicians who can move them and make them feel. Many people have become numbed by the ups and down in life. Sometimes it takes the perfect piece of music, communicated by a wonderful musician, to allow someone who has been emotionally injured to heal.

2. Music study exposes one to a rich history and puts it in context.

Music is a mirror and an expression of what was happening when the music was created. Many people do not know that the great Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1902), for example, despite being a brilliant composer, had to tip toe around the political censors while writing his famous operas. Ludwig van Beethoven, (1770–1827), wrote his masterpieces under extreme personal hardship, and once you have read and understand the context of his music, it takes on a new richness and creates a new depth of admiration for the composer himself. For an in-depth look at and to listen to the greatest orchestral works and the history surrounding the creation of these works, listen to this lecture series given by Dr. Robert Greenberg through The Great Courses. I have listened to these lectures over and over again. I look forward to each one with happy anticipation. Dr. Greenberg is brilliant!

3. Studying music sharpens concentration and teaches perseverance.

As one develops as a musician, one realizes the importance of keeping one’s mind on the task at hand. As you are playing through a piece, whether it be a classical Allegro piece (happy and fast), or a swampy blues ballad, you cannot take your mind off what you are doing for one second or you will end up in a musical ditch. I have told my students over and over that they cannot be thinking about what they will make for lunch while playing music. It is a recipe for disaster. Additionally, you cannot play a passage quickly and well unless you have slowed it way down and gotten each little part perfect. This takes time, patience and drill and it is the secret that differentiates a brilliant musician from a poseur. This little tip can be applied in many areas of life. The true professional in any field takes care to make every little part of what they are working on perfect.

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4. Learning music makes you an expert in reading non-verbal communication.

As you play music with another person or a group, you realize that there is a method of communication that transcends words. It is actually more like ESP than anything else. As a rock bassist in my youth, I was fortunate enough to play with a magnificent drummer. Every time I was going to take a detour rhythmically, he was right there with me. It was as though we were in two separate race cars and everywhere I went, even at super high speeds, he was there grinning at me. The best musicians I have ever played with understood that communication is more than talk or words. It is soul to soul contact and it works!

5. Learning music increases responsibility.

As a songwriter, I have seen how music affects people. It is almost unlimited in its ability to rouse to action. That said, with power comes great responsibility. The one thing I do know about music—or any art, really—is that whatever message travels on an aesthetic or artful line must be truth as far as you can see because music goes into people. It communicates faster and more effectively than any words ever can. As such, it can be used for good or evil. Thus musicians and everyone else working in the area of the arts have a great responsibility to ensure that their message is one of benevolence.

6. Studying music teaches one how to listen.

A good musician must be very in tune to how things sound. He or she must know how to listen. A musician playing with others will soon be playing alone if he or she doesn’t know how to listen. A musical group or band situation demands give and take musically. There are unspoken cues and musical cues as well as the overall sound of the group that one must be aware of. If someone is forever playing over the vocalist or taking a solo when they should not be, they are likely to find a microphone embedded in the back of their head! Music is communication and is subject to the same laws of communication as everything else, even though the cues may be subtle. These skills must be learned by a musician and are generally enforced by the other group members.

7. Studying music increases coordination.

A person learning how to sing or play an instrument automatically becomes more aware of their body. The body can also be considered an instrument as it works very closely with the actual instrument (or in the case of a singer, it is the instrument) to create the sounds. There are instruments like the violin, for example, that are extremely precise. One must place one’s fingers exactly or it sounds wrong. This takes drill and isolation of the different parts of the body, as well as learning to allow the body parts to work in harmony with each other. When things go wrong, the musician must be able to spot where the change occurred and get back on track. This is a valuable skill in life. Being able to spot where errors occurred and correct them is vital in any life situation.

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8. Studying music relieves stress.

There is nothing like a great practice session or performance to put you in a great mood. Music is pure communication. Pure communication makes everything better. Also the act of focusing your attention, such as is required when mastering a difficult passage or learning a song to play with your band, does not allow for the intrusion of stressful thoughts. Music can rejuvenate you even after the worst day.

9. Learning music fosters creativity.

Once one understands the basics of music, it is not difficult to start taking the components and reconfiguring them to come up with entirely new songs or pieces. Even my youngest students have brought in songs that they have written and want to try out.

10. Learning music helps you remember.

Not only does learning to memorize pieces of music exercise your brain and allow you to remember more easily, for whatever reason you can remember things better when they are set to music. For example, you may not be able to memorize algebraic equations, but if you make them into a song, you automatically remember them more easily.

11. Learning music helps you become better at managing your time.

Practice is a  big part of learning music and practice takes time. Time must be factored in to your already busy day. Your practice time must then become efficient. Musicians who become great know that efficiency is the key component of music. Your movements must be extremely efficient in order to play fast passages. Your valuable practice time must be efficient so that you don’t waste it.

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12. Learning music teaches you to persevere until you get it right.

You have seen brilliant players on just about any instrument and in any genre. Brilliant playing doesn’t just occur. There is a lot of repetitive drill that goes on to create something that seems effortless. Learning to keep at something until it is perfect is a vital skill in life. Learning to take the time to go beyond ‘good enough’ and go for perfect is the first step toward proficiency in any subject.

13. Learning music and performing forces you to develop composure in front of people.

So many people I know have a mortal fear of speaking in front of an audience. Musicians have to develop the skill not only to speak before an audience, but to perform demanding pieces under pressure as well. Most of my students have had performances where they were convinced that they were terrible on stage. I remind them that performing is itself a skill and unfortunately you cannot develop this skill alone in your room or studio. You have no choice but to develop it right there in front of everybody. Every musician I know has had bad nights. They learn from them and become stronger as a result. The really great ones have performed so many times that they know how to deal with the nerves (yes, we still get nervous), the uncertainties of a new venue and the unexpected things that always pop up in any performance.

14. Learning music is just really interesting!

OK, I am a self professed Music Theory Nerd. I love to know what all the symbols are and how they all relate and coordinate with each other. In fact, I wrote a book on it! I love to understand all of the rules of music and to listen to the works of great composers. Music is richly imbued with ancient stories and symbols that most people never know about. There is no history richer than the history of music.

15. Learning music gives you access to a creative social network.

While music can be played by one person, it is when you start playing in groups that the fun really begins. Most musicians love to play with other people as the interaction aides creativity in oneself. Music builds life-long relationships.

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16. If you know music, you always have a marketable skill that you can take with you anywhere.

Music is always needed and wanted by people of all cultures. You can go anywhere and be assured that you have a skill that can put food on the table no matter where you are. From the various playing opportunities to teaching, to even busking on the street (it’s really fun, you should try it!), you are never without a way to make money.

17. Learning music lets you call yourself a musician and that is the coolest thing ever!

Who here has not, at least once, fallen in love with a musician after seeing him or her perform? The Beatles had more female fans than any group in history. Face it, being a musician is cool! So, now that we have decided that you are going to take up a musical instrument, which will it be? Get your instrument and meet me in the studio. We have work to do!

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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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