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 Wendy Lynch, MSW, Courier & Press, August 1, 2017 –

After a busy day helping kids as a school social worker, I often come home from work feeling the need to decompress.  Many days I find myself trying to process the daily struggles of my students.

My husband and I regularly discuss what it means to help a child in need.  How can I serve all the kids I meet with effectively?

There are many directions this conversation can go, but one concept we often discuss is the necessity for  youth  to feel a part of something — a need for connection, a sense of belonging  or perhaps best said, a sense of purpose.

Research shows that teens and young adults that seek purpose have higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.  While recognizing these needs is important, the more challenging component is to how best connect  youth  to this sense of purpose.

When I recently listened to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg give an eloquent commencement speech to Harvard University graduates, I was impassioned by his message of “purpose,” because it was so reflective of many of my interactions with the kids I serve through  Youth  First.  Mr. Zuckerberg’s thesis was that “finding your purpose isn’t enough; the challenge is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.”  (You can find Zuckerberg’s speech on You Tube.)

 With this in mind, I often find my conversations with distressed  youth  gravitating toward  the things in life they care about — people, ideas, and dreams — and how I can best point them toward  these  connections.  So how might one do this?  Zuckerberg offers three concepts that can help you lead your child towards a sense of connection, belonging and purpose:

  1. Encourage participation in something bigger than yourself.  Examples include community service, sports, drama, music  or clubs.
  2. Try to create the feeling or environment where the child is needed.
  3. Help facilitate an environment, attitudes  and goals where there is always something better ahead to work towards.

In my experience, I believe it is productive to help your child see a bright future and focus on what is to come rather than what is in the past.  According to William Damon, author of “The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life,” benefits can include living longer and healthier; valuing humility, gratitude and integrity; being more academically engaged; being more pro-socially oriented and engaged; being interested in how their actions affect others  and more.

The teen years are a time to explore one’s inner and outer world and seek new experiences.  Hopefully, these experiences will also create time for self-reflection so that teens can discover what gives their life purpose and meaning – what makes them feel alive.  Parents can set an example for their teen by modeling a sense of purpose in their own lives.

Guide your teen toward finding their purpose in life.  Help them break down their purpose into achievable goals and take action to support them until they’ve achieved their goals.  Pride in what they accomplish and service to others can build a capacity for a greater purpose that endures into their life well beyond the teen years.