I don't know about you, but I have had some pretty crazy dreams lately. Conversations with my family and friends have also shown that people are having a significant increase in vivid and unusual dreams. An ongoing study by the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France initiated in March suggests that participants are reporting 15% more negative dreams than usual. Several other researchers have explained that due to social distancing, people are withdrawn from their typical environment and stimuli, which has resulted in the brain -the ever fascinating organ- to run wild with themes from our past. In addition, the stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic has triggered intense emotional responses of fear, which is triggering highly emotional dream responses in the form of vivid nightmares or dreams to process the current state of the world.
While we continue to navigate these unusual times, it is important for all of us to remember to practice self-care. The way we routinely engage in self-care may no longer be available due to social distancing, so it is important to explore different avenues of care during this time. To assist you in exploring some new methods of care, we have put together a list of musical ways to deal with the stress and boredom of COVID-19..
1. Write a Song
It is no secret that songwriting can be cathartic in many forms. Writing a song allows us to explore emotional expression on a deeper level and explore common themes. This is likely due to the fact that writing lyrics are much easier than making expressive verbal statements and allows for exploration of deeper meanings on multiple levels. Are you thinking that there is no way you could write a song? Think again! As music therapists, we know that absolutely anyone can write a song! We've listed below some ways to ease you into writing your own song:
Use the "Piggy Back" Songwriting Technique This technique uses songs with an existing familiar melody, but changes the words to your own. For example, the song "On Top of Spaghetti" uses the familiar melody of the old Kentucky folk song "On Top of Old Smokey" for a catchy and funny children's song. Try a familiar tune like "I've Been Working on the Railroad" or "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" to get you started!
Use a Madlib Style The Madlib technique, also known as fill-in-the-blank, uses a preferred song, but with a few key words missing. The madlib style allows for you to keep the structure of the song, while replacing key words with ideas of your own! Do you need some help with madlib style songwriting? Here is a website that will help you along the way.
Use a Backing Track Using a backing track allows you to use your own words, while still providing structure. You can look up backing tracks on Youtube in any style that fits your fancy or use a music production software like Garageband to create backing tracks or loops to sing over.
*If at any point, you feel songwriting is becoming a contraindication for self-care, please contact a music therapist or mental health professional immediately.*
2. Learn a New Instrument
Now is a great time to take that ukulele or guitar that you bought on impulse and learn how to play it. Learning to play an instrument not only gives us a sense of accomplishment but also releases mood enhancing chemicals in the brain, also known as endorphins! Interested in learning a new instrument? We have online virtual options available to you!
Group Music Class for Ukulele with one our music therapists is a great beginner course to introduce yourself to an instrument. During this class we will introduce the fundamentals of playing the ukulele, teach common chords and learn popular songs. Along with your purchase of this course, you will receive a workbook, which will include all the songs we will be learning over the duration of the class. Upon registration, the music teacher leading the class will send you an amazon link for a ukulele starter kit if you don't already have one.We are currently offering online group classes for ages 5-12, 13+, and all adults!
3. Make Mood-Based Playlists
Music has innate way of changing and impacting our moods. Music therapists use what we call the "Iso Principle" in music therapy sessions to elicit changes in mood. The Iso Principle is "a technique by which music is matched with the mood of a client, then gradually altered to affect the desired mood state. This technique can also be used to affect physiological responses such as heart rate and blood pressure”
(Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008).
Keeping this in mind, playlists are a great way to guide yourself from one emotional state to a desired emotional state. For instance, if I am feeling a bit down or sluggish and I want to get more energized, I will create a playlist that include some more relaxed songs that progressively move into more upbeat and happier songs. A music therapist is specifically trained in using the ISO Principle and using interventions to alter mood states. To learn more about a music therapist supporting you in creating a prescribed playlist, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org