As the days and weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic grind on, millions of people continue to wrestle with isolation, uncertainty and stress, whether they’re directly affected by the virus or not. It’s a strain on both mental and physical health. As we wait for better days to come, finding ways to cope in the here and now is essential, and one wonderfully positive way to do that is with music.
Music is a magical elixir of sorts, free and easy to access, possessing the power to heal. The sound of music induces an almost immediate sense of well-being. It can help you connect with deep feelings and aspects of yourself that may have been sidelined by the stress and anxiety of the past few weeks. Music transports, transforms and, as Bob Marley once said, “when it hits, you feel no pain.”
Give your mind and spirit a vacation.
When you tap into music, particularly in difficult times, you’re also tapping into a fast, easy way to blunt stress. When you put on headphones, close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you – no multi-tasking allowed – you areforcing yourself to be mindful and ‘in the moment,’ which these days is a good place to be. Music is so much more than just entertainment – it is an ancient and sacred form of medicine with wonderful side-effects for mind, body and spirit.
Try a daily dose of musical medicine.
Regular doses of carefully selected music and sounds can have powerful therapeutic benefits, lowering heart rate, slowing respiration, decreasing blood pressure and reducing muscle tension. According to noted musicologist and author Don Campbell, physiological and psychological reactions also include slowed-down brain wave activity; increased endorphin levels; better regulation of stress-related hormones; pain control; boosted immunity; improved digestion; altered perception of time and space; increased feelings of well-being – and even enhanced romantic and sexual feelings. What’s more, research has shown that listening to music can improve sleep and ease depression, so my advice is to tune in every day, pandemic or not.
Get your groove on.
To help you get into the groove (or back into it) and take advantage of the medicine of music, I want to share with you my mini-playlist of joyous and profound classics that you can tap-along, dance-along, hum-along and sing-a-long to help soothe your spirits. Enjoy watching these videos or just close your eyes and let them work their medical magic:
STAND BY ME: This version of the Ben E. King classic is particularly beautiful and powerful, produced by Playing for Change, the organization whose mission it is to inspire and connect the world through music. The video features a collection of different musicians performing in their home musical environments, imbuing the song with a new, thoroughly eclectic cultural power.
ONE LOVE: Also created by Playing for Change, this video features an incredible rendition of the legendary Bob Marley song “One Love” with Keb’ Mo’, Manu Chao and musicians from around the world. This is one of my all time favorite songs and is born of the belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people,
THE WEIGHT: Robbie Robertson and Ringo Starr lead a chorus of talented musicians around the globe celebrating 50 years of the classic song The Weight. Playing for Change created this version to benefit the establishment of the Playing For Change Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world.
LEAN ON ME: Perhaps there is no more touching and soothing song right now than Lean on Me, written and first performed by the late, legendary Bill Withers. Again, Playing for Change turns it into a musical patchwork, combining the talents of musicians from all over the world. This is from their Listen to the Music album.
THREE LITTLE BIRDS: Is there any artist more comforting than Bob Marley? To me, his music is like an instant shot of joy – it’s all but impossible to remain stuck in a bad mood when one of his tunes start to play. In this version, curated by Playing for Change, the tune kicks off in in West Africa, with the familiar words “don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright,” as one of my favorite musicians, Baaba Maal, and musicians from Mali, Brazil and India, as well as Paris, New York and Los Angeles, add their unique spin to the Marley classic.
DIAMONDS ON THE SOLES OF HER SHOES: Music is an integral part of my life. I listen to it to unwind at night and to energize myself in the morning. I am a huge fan of world music and African music in particular, and one of my all-time favorites is this song by Paul Simon, sung with Ladysmith Black Mambazo – their voices, their moves, their songs are like no other.
Embrace sounds that soothe.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, sound surrounds us virtually every moment of the day. There are good sounds, like music that soothes, calms, heals, energizes or simply makes us smile. And there aresounds which have the opposite effect, stressing both body and mind – think jackhammers, lawnmowers, and the sirens that punctuate the silence of our currently very quiet streets. As we travel this strange road we now find ourselves on, rememberthat sounds and musichave the power to elicit both positive and negative responses within the body – so it’s important to be conscious of the types of sound you immerse yourself in each day. For the time being, erring on the softer side will likely be gentler for your mind and body, as well as those of the folks you may be sharing space with.
Keep grooving, and stay well!