Chronic stress can have a negative effect on all aspects of our lives, from our personal health to our interpersonal relationships. To make matters worse, we can’t always eliminate the external stressors in our lives, such as occupational or financial stressors, making stress all the more inevitable. We can however look internally for a potential solution.
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well documented, more so now with the current boom of wellness practices and the wellness industry as a whole. The one downfall of wellness services is their seeming lack of affordability, which is where simple meditation comes into play. But even meditation, the simple act of engaging in contemplation or reflection, may seem inaccessible to the uninitiated, or difficult to achieve to the novice.
Did you know that you don’t need to take any classes on meditation to reap the benefits? What if I told you that mediation is as simple as putting on your headphones? The practice of mindfulness is not about fancy studios or even trendy apps, it’s about simply stopping what you’re doing and noticing yourself in the present moment, whether that be your breathing, your thoughts, or listening intently to the noises, or lack of noise, around you.
When used appropriately, music can be one of the best tools to ease the transition into a meditative state. Music, especially music that you have a natural affinity toward, has a natural ability to draw your attention toward itself. You’ve already completed half the battle. The next step is simply to be fully “in tune” with the music, by way of eliminating the things that may be distracting you from truly and deeply listening, such as moving or eating.
Music is often a tool to enhance other experiences, such as partying, exercising, even waiting in an elevator. Seldom do we just sit down on a comfortable chair, close our eyes, and let the music sink into our soul. This will take your mindfulness to the next level. But you’ll also want to “fine tune” your musical experience, by choosing your music carefully.
For example, think about the feelings that your choice of music evokes. Does it make you want to do something else, like go partying, or does it evoke sadness or anger? There’s nothing inherently wrong with these feelings if you can simply observe them and not allow the emotions to guide actions, but for the novice, softer music might be a better start.
Think about music that soothes your soul, or look for music that soothes your soul, and give it your true listening attention. Better yet, challenge yourself by looking for new music that fits your preferences. This will not only soothe you but will also help you to broaden your horizons. It is after all new experiences that give you the dopamine rush.
Once you’ve chosen your music, or perhaps constructed a playlist for yourself, find a nice place to sit comfortably, wearing comfortable clothing if possible, and perhaps close your eyes to lend more attention to the sound. As certain feelings are evoked, allow yourself to feel them fully. Don’t fight them or try to hold on to them. Simply feel them through to their natural end and then let them pass, which gives way to further thought and emotion.
Once you have this practice down, you can simply eliminate the musical aspect if you choose to do so. While there’s no pressure to go in this direction, some people find that they can better get in touch with their own latent emotions through a total silence. You can also pick and choose the settings of your practice based on your mood on any given day. This is what makes meditation such an accessible practice in which anyone can truly benefit.
If you’re looking for a place to start or are open to recommendation, you can start by searching on Youtube or Spotify for “mindfulness playlist” and try out a few options. Don’t forget to minimize your browser and close your eyes before you start listening.