Posts

By Callie Sanders, LSW, January 8, 2019 –

Music is a universal language. It is the gateway for optimal brain health, longevity, and happiness.

In the world of research, neuromusicology explores the nervous system’s response to music and how it activates every part of the brain. Studies performed on musicians reveal significant brain health and well-being.

The largest fiber bundle in the brain, the corpus callosum, is said to be larger and more symmetrical in musicians. It is responsible for connecting the right and left hemispheres, allowing communication between both sides. It is also involved in several other functions of our body, such as eye movement, vision, and sensory perception.

The lack of musical ability does not keep a person from enjoying its benefits. Listening to upbeat music can have positive effects on mood. It naturally helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. On the contrary, sad music has benefits too, both cathartically and revolutionary, that increase self-awareness.

Music also stimulates the formation of brain chemicals and hormones. One chemical particularly stimulated is the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the “feel good” state. It also stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which helps us bond with and trust others. So continue to play, listen, and enjoy music whenever possible.

Another important area of life where music is beneficial is at work. Not only does music ignite more creativity and productivity, but when employees are allowed to pick the music, productivity and task completion accelerate, stress lowers, and work is more manageable.

The universal language of music, as a whole, supports social behaviors such as empathy, kindness, and cooperation. Children should be involved with music as much as possible. Encourage your child to join the band or choir at school.  It’s a great way to boost self-esteem, self-awareness, and a sense of community.

Because I am part of a musically inclined family, music has and will always be a staple in my life. I encourage you to listen to genres that aren’t familiar to you and play an instrument you are familiar with or learn a new one. Encourage your child to do so as well.

Happy listening and have fun playing!

By Callie Sanders, LSW – December 12, 2017 –

With the demands of 21st century life – work, parenting, endless emails, texts, social media, etc. – people wear overstimulation like a badge of honor.

There seems to be a kind of confusion in our culture where people feel the need to be anxious and always “on the go” to be effective.  I’m just as guilty.

With that being said, we find ourselves in a mindfulness revolution.  It’s prominent everywhere.   From hospitals to corporations, 33% of Americans said they had used alternative health practices, including meditation (National Institutes of Health).

Mindfulness practice embraces the beauty of monotasking.  The way I describe mindfulness to the students I work with is simply “paying attention on purpose.”

By incorporating mindfulness practice at my schools this year, the students that are willing to give it a try leave my office feeling less stressed.  Most ask to repeat the practice during additional visits.  Let’s face it, kids are stressed out too.

There aren’t any prizes handed out for being the greatest at mindfulness. It is about connecting to our experiences in a different way and giving ourselves a chance to pay attention in the present without adding more stuff to our plate.

If you’ve used phrases like, “My mind just works too fast” or “I’ve tried it and failed,” or my favorite, “I don’t have time for that,” you’re exactly the kind of person that needs mindfulness most.  Mindfulness is a lifelong journey, not an all-or-nothing mentality, and it’s free.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by the University of Southern California, most Americans spend 13-plus hours a day consumed by media.  No wonder everyone is stressed out.

I was skeptical when the term mindfulness was first introduced to me.  But when I decided to give it a chance, I was surprised how simple it was and what I felt.

Practicing mindfulness can happen anywhere.  I like to practice in my vegetable garden or out in my yard.  When I take a second to sniff a fresh tomato after I pull it off the vine or listen to the birds singing in the background, I feel better.

For just that one second I was present; I noticed nature.  What a powerful feeling!  I encourage you to try this with your family at home.  After you take a second for yourself and enjoy nature, be grateful.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some tips for your workday, especially in the afternoon when the “two o’clock yawns” kick in.

When you can take a break, don’t go straight to your phone for at least one of the breaks.  A 2014 study found that being able to see a cellphone hinders the ability to focus on tough tasks.

If you can, go for a short walk and try not to ruminate on work.  I realize this can be difficult, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.  Ignoring your phone is a great way to practice mindfulness during the walk.

Also, do someone a favor.  Not only does this help you connect to others, it aids in recovering from stress.

Most importantly, start small.  Remember, no rewards are given for being the best at mindfulness.  I encourage you to put your phone down during dinner this evening and engage in conversation.  You will feel better being present.