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How does active music making support emotional wellbeing?

Yes it's official! The mince pies and plum puddings are in the shops which means Christmas is on its way. And just like it says in the song, “You better watch out!” Because according to some surveys Christmas is up there with divorce, moving house and changing jobs as the sixth most stressful life event.

So as the stresses and strains of the Christmas season take their toll, what do we need to do? 

Q: What do they sing at a snowman's birthday party? A: Freeze a jolly good fellow!

Listen to the snowman - music makes you feel good!

Music is one of the few activities that involves using the whole brain with proven benefits not only for learning language, improving memory and focusing attention, but also for physical coordination and development.

You probably know that already!

In fact scientific research shows that active music making is fantastic for promoting wellbeing. There are many ways in which music can benefit our physical and emotional wellbeing, from lowering blood pressure to relieving pain symptoms. I have picked out a few that may be most relevant to you as early years practitioners:

Music improves mood and decreases depression 

A study, reported in Nature Neuroscience, found that the chemical dopamine, responsible for that 'feel good' feeling is released when people listen to upbeat music.

Putting it into practice

In our music training work, one unexpected outcome has been that both practitioners and parents have reported that they use some of our songs as a mood booster for themselves. If you're having a long old day, find an upbeat song to play with your children and have a dance around, using some tactile props if possible like scarves or shakers. You'll be amazed at how much better both you and your children feel at the end of the song and you have ticked some bonding, physical development and communication development boxes too!



Relaxing music induces sleep

Relaxing classical music is safe, cheap and easy way to beat insomnia. Many people who suffer from insomnia find that Bach music helps them. Researchers have shown that just 45 minutes of relaxing music before bedtime can make for a restful night.

Putting it into practice

This is definitely one to share with Mums and Dads both for their children's and their own routines.

Music keeps the bugs at bay

At Sussex University researchers found that listening to uplifting music boosts our immune system. Specifically, people who listened to music had an increase in their levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), a type of antibody that is present at mucosal surfaces (digestive tract, lungs, etc.) and helps to prevent infections. Music listeners had higher numbers of an immune cell type called "natural killer cells," whose job it is to attack bacteria, infected cells, and cancerous cells.

Putting it into practice

Get that upbeat music on! The more actively you and your children are engaged with the music the better, so get up and boogie!

Music lowers stress

A large scale review covering over 400 scientific papers on the topic of the neurochemistry of music has found that listening to music reduced levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has many physiological effects, one of which has a role in promoting obesity.

Putting it into practice

As mentioned previous, get that upbeat music on! The more actively you and your children are engaged with the music the better so get up and boogie!

Not a musician? Can't sing? Don't worry, be happy!

At the PACEY conference,  "Be happy, be healthy: supporting wellbeing in the early years,” on November 7th, I will be showing you music activities that we can all do to boost wellbeing and learning  – no previous musical training required!

We will be using drums, shakers and rhythm sticks, all of which you can make yourself from materials from the recycle box - so that's wellbeing for the planet too!

And we will be learning some simple action songs to give our bodies and our brains a workout.

So join me on November 7th and together we will make sure there are no Grinch’s this Christmas!

Have fun and keep on boogie-ing! 

About the author

Harriet Thomas, is an author of the upcoming book 'Get the Music Magic' and Creative Director at Boogie Mites UK Ltd.



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