There are countless ways to make sense of life’s challenges. There are equally innumerable strategies for tackling anxiety and depression, each with their own theories and studies to validate their existence. But there is one strategy that has stood the test of time, that no one questions and nearly every human on earth has employed at some point in their life to change their state of mind.
Have you ever caught yourself tapping your toe feverishly and wondered how long it’s had a life of its own? Have you ever woken up on a Saturday morning and thrown on your favorite playlist to set the tone for your day? In its own mysterious way, music weaves itself into our lives and influences our experience of the world. This week’s guest, Tim Ringgold, knows this well and has been using it to cultivate a sense of presence and connection with his music therapy clients.
There is a magical quality to music, we’ve all felt it. It’s that feeling you get when you see your favorite band of all-time playing live and you’re right there with it, or when you watch an African drumming group and a part of your spirit seems to live inside the rhythm. Tim Ringgold describes this as connection. He states that it’s not actually the music that’s doing it to you, it’s the connection you feel to the sound, the people making it, the instruments, and yourself.
Tim started off as a musician and found his way to becoming a board-certified music therapist, an author, and a columnist for “Recovery Today” magazine. His life’s work has formed around using music as a way to heal addictions.
“Music is inherently therapeutic because it helps you move from point A to point B all by itself.”
Let’s go back to that playlist you listen to on Saturday morning, the one you used to lift your spirits.
Imagine using music instead of pills.
Music is an incredibly effective tool in helping to minimize the perception of pain in the brain. Not only that, but it also helps to regulate your emotions by regulating your nervous system. When you hear a song you like or find relaxing, your body releases oxytocin and dopamine, essentially, the “feel-good hormones”. Your mind state shifts, your nervous system shifts and you are no longer where you were five minutes ago.
And if you tap your toe, well, the medicine of music goes even further.
“If you engage with music, not just listen, but actually engage your body in some way, so snap, tap, clap, hum, rap, sing, strum, you know to engage with the music your attention has to be in the present to keep up with it. With mindfulness you have to think about it, with music you don’t have to think about staying present, you’re just thinking about the music.”
Mandatory self-isolation. Social isolation. Social distancing. Physical distancing. The terminology seems to be changing as fast as the weather but the effect is the same.
“Humans, we are pack animals, we are meant to live in community. We live in groups from birth to death and so, to shut us in is not normal for the human nervous system, for the social being that we are. We need connection and so music is one of the tools right now that is lockdown-proof.”
Tim urges everyone to now, more than ever, turn to music. Find ways to actively engage with it in your life.
“We are social animals, we’re pack animals so the way it works is this: I lean on you, you lean on me and we don’t keep score. That’s community”