Concerts…for Self-Care?

I am always looking for new ways to engage with music, either personally or for my clients. Recently, my wife Angelique came upon a podcast: LIVE in Concert from NPRs All Songs Considered. Each episode is a recording of a live concert. It includes artists like Lizzo, Brandi Carlile, Ryan Adams, Violent Femmes, and more. 

This is great because during a pandemic, your opportunities to go out and see live music are pretty limited. You already know that watching live music is entertaining. But, did you know that consuming live music is an important part of self-care?

Say what? 

Let me explain…

Gathering in groups, as humans, is something we’ve done since the beginning of time. That’s how we survive….in groups. One thing that creates group cohesion, is to work together in rhythm. When the group gathers and engages in music making that’s rhythmic, they move their bodies together in rhythm, and it creates empathy.

It’s been shown in research studies that moving together to rhythm creates empathy, all the way down to the infant level. Pretty fascinating, right? So music has always been the social glue that creates cohesion for the group to be able to co-exist and co-operate together. So they celebrate to blow off steam, they’re expressing whatever emotions they have, but they’re working it all out and music is the glue that’s causing that process to take place. 

So when we go to concerts, we are gathering together in proximity to live rhythmic music. We’re moving to it, singing to it, dancing to it. And that creates this group cohesion that is shown in research that it actually increases our capacity for empathy.

That’s why it’s important for people to gather together. Can you think of where else can we experience this?  In church. In church we are worshiping together. We’re moving to the music and our arms are up in the air swaying to the music. We are moving rhythmically to the music which can create an altered state of consciousness, a higher state of awareness… a higher state of CONNECTedness. It’s a very spiritual experience that we can enjoy socially and spiritually. It’s like two different elevations and each is valid and valuable. Both produce results.

How can you create this experience even though you can’t go to a concert or attend church?

You can listen to a podcast like LIVE in Concert from NPR, or watch concert footage on YouTube of your favorite band right in your own living room.  You could do this with your family members to create the group cohesion I mentioned earlier. But, there is still a benefit in watching solo. See, our brain is not that smart. You don’t want to give it that much credit that it understands the difference when you are actually at a live concert or watching a recording on YouTube. 

Try it and turn up the volume! There’s a very important piece about decibel level. The brain produces a higher pleasure response to music, the higher the decibel level. The louder the music, the more dopamine is released. I could only speculate as to why that is, but I think it’s related to this group cohesion and group experience.

So, turn up the music, listen, even if you listen to it by yourself and you watch a concert on the big screen and you stand up in your living room and you’re moving to it or you even just sit down but you move your you engage your body with the rhythm. You’re visually taking the scene. Those mirror neurons are picking up everything that’s going on on that screen. So, you can still have a powerful experience with the music even if you’re by yourself. Yes, it is limited, compared to an actual live concert. But it doesn’t mean it’s invalid.

I can speak from my own experience that I’ve felt my mood shift, my state shift by energy shift, watching a live concert, even if I’m the only one watching it. And it’s also valid to want to share what you’re watching with others. But, do what you can. Even watching/listening alone can provide great benefits to your mood. 

To make music part of your self care routine, there are four practices that I recommend: 

  1. Listen Daily – Listen to music that YOU enjoy everyday. Even better…engage with the music by tapping or singing along!
  2. Play regularly – Ideally I recommend folks play their instrument for 10 minutes a day. But, if not daily, make sure you’re taking time to MAKE music on a regular basis. This is more than once a week!
  3. Share weekly – Members of our Reach for Music community are encouraged to share what they are playing or listening to. Bonus points if you do a Facebook or Instagram live of you jamming on your instrument. Let’s celebrate each other. 
  4. Watch monthly – Before all the concerts got cancelled, I would encourage folks to make a plan to go out and see live music at least once a month. As I mentioned above, there are still creative ways to do this. 

If you can build these four habits into your regular routine, I predict you’ll experience a radical improvement in your mood, mental clarity, creativity, and relationships. Speaking of habits, my wife and I are huge fans of books on habits. I’m more a fan of Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg and my wife likes Atomic Habits by James Clear. When trying to take on a new habit, one of the tools Clear recommends is using an implementation intention. 

“I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”

For example, “I will listen to music at 3pm when I get in the car to pick up the kids.” 

Try using this formula and see if it helps you with any of the above musical self-care practices. If you want to take it even a step further, I created a tool that will help you plan out how you engage with music. It’s called the Reach for Music Play Planner. It has a structure for you to plan how you’ll engage with music each and every week so you don’t leave it to chance. There’s also room for you to reflect on the impact this practice has had on you at the end of each week. 

If you want to learn more about the Reach for Music Play Planner just click HERE and check it out. 

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