If you’re like me, you’ve probably been feeling a little overwhelmed lately. Especially considering all the uncertainty and disruption around us,it’s no surprise that so many of us are looking for something – anything – that can make us feel normal again. Luckily, the most powerful tool we have is always with us: music. It’s true! Just sitting back and relaxing while listening to our favorite music can take us away from whatever stressful places we find ourselves in, and bring us a measure of peace.
For many of us, this is no surprise. We couldn’t imagine watching a movie without the background music or driving any length of time without our “playlist!” …but, did you know that there is one thing even MORE transformative – even more powerful than listening to our favorite music?
Well there is. In fact, science has shown that PLAYING a musical instrument takes us to a whole different, deeper level of relaxation. It’s true. Actively participating in music engages our bodies on a physiological level – causing unique and beneficial cell activity in our brains and all over our nervous, lymphatic and circulatory systems.
Researchers found that playing music increases the body’s production of Immunoglobulin A and “killer cells” – these are cells that boost our bodies immune system and attack invading viruses. Music also reduces the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. In a nutshell, this makes us healthier and more resistant to common ailments like heart disease and cancer!
…but – as great as this is to know – the best benefits an active music maker can enjoy are emotional. …and to explain that, I don’t need any studies or statistics. Instead, I’d like to tell you how playing music helped me get through a difficult time in my own life.
I lost my mom about eight months ago. It was very sudden – a shock to the whole family. I was sad, angry, and lost. I had never lost a family member before let alone a mother – who, let’s face it, is and (always will be) my biggest fan. I was in a daze during the day and having nightmares throughout the night. I felt like a boat that had lost its anchor.
One night after my wife had gone to bed, I sat down at the piano. We have a digital piano so I put on some headphones and began playing some of my Mom’s favorite Frank Sinatra songs. She absolutely loved Frank Sinatra. She used to come watch me perform at one place or another, and I always loved singing a couple her favorite songs for her and my Dad. I sat there and played for quite a long time. I played; I remembered my Mom; and I cried. These tears were different, though. They weren’t the sad, despairing kind of tears. They were a healing kind that brought me closer to my mom and allowed me to embrace her through her favorite music. I lost track of time as her songs became my songs, and the music helped me to stay connected with her. It meant the world to me. Since that night, I have spent time “with my mother” on the piano many a night, and it’s beautiful every time. I will be forever thankful for her support of my playing and for the lasting bond music gave us.
If you play piano now, I’m sure you can relate to how it takes you to another “place.” It’s like reading a good book and “living” in its story. You have to read the notes and listen to what you’re playing, but also listen for what you WANT to hear. You can lose yourself in the “story” of the music but you can also step away from the page and explore your own creativity. You can rewrite that musical story and make it something uniquely your own. There is nothing else like it.
I think that’s the real magic of music – there are only twelve notes, but they can be rearranged in so many different ways that you can create something truly unique every time you play. …and every time you play, you can transform your heart and mind – breathing life into a memory or leaving your world entirely behind so you can live completely free in a moment of joy. When you play the piano, you can change any emotion. Sadness can become joy. Fear can become trust. Your uncertainty can become a treasured “safe place” when you most need an escape from the world around you.
If you don’t play the piano yet, let me encourage you to start immediately. You don’t have to be a professional musician to enjoy the many benefits of playing a piano. Every time you try, it changes the way you look at the world and can even change the way the world looks back at you. Your piano can be a refuge when you’re feeling stressed. It can be a peaceful refuge when you need to just disappear. Noone can take it away from you and you can create your own favorite songs whenever you want!
Playing the piano has helped me through some of the worst times in my life and I know it can do the same for you. Just imagine what music will do for your family when you gather around your home piano. …and with all the uncertainty around us – there will never be a better time to start enjoying all the peace and tranquility your fingers can muster! Besides – you never know who else you might bless along the way!