There are many studies extolling the virtues of music. It helps develop a child's brain, it improves hand-eye coordination, it forestalls Alzheimer's; but I think the greatest benefit of music is that it fosters an "every day effort" mindset. In this day of montages in movies and a desire for instant fame and fortune, nothing is more important than developing the true key to success; the "every day effort."
I'm not a world class flute, piano, or guitar player. In fact I'm rather ordinary, but I play every day. At 8:00 a.m., I turn off my cell, pop on my headphones and play. I don't have any other criteria than that. I don't worry about how long I play, what I play, what instrument I play, and generally, have no goal in mind. Some days it's horrible. Some days I don't play for very long. Some days I end up fiddling with electronic gadgets and do very little actual playing. Occasionally, I have a great day, but more times than not, it's just an unremarkable day.
Unfortunately this "every day effort" mindset runs counter to the "lottery" thinking that pervades our society. So many people give up on music because they are not instantly great as seen in August Rush, School of Rock, or Rock Star. Can you imagine how many hours Andy Dufresne must have spent whittling that hole out of Shawshank State Penitentiary? Thanks to movies and TV, we get used to the idea that long and tedious tasks can be accomplished by magic. Pull down a poster of Raquel Welch and poof, there is a tunnel. Sure, we saw Andy get the little hammer and we saw him pull one chunk of the wall down, but we didn't see 20 years of him picking away, every night. Thank heavens, because that would be boring to watch and therein lies problem with "every day effort". It's boring. Boring, boring, boring. You see little progress and get very little reward. As a result, invariably, you lose your way.
At some point you ask yourself,
"Is there any point to this?"
"I'm getting nowhere, should I give up?"
"This is hard. Is it this hard for everybody?"
and worst of all "Isn't there a quicker way?"
Cue the dramatic music and enter the purveyors of the quick and magic solutions.
We've all seen these hucksters:
- "Make millions with no investment, time, or effort."
- "Buy a house with no money down, even if you don't have a job."
- "Lose weight in days with this pill."
- "Learn the computer in one seminar."
- "Find your perfect mate by calling this toll free number."
- "Learn a musical instrument in an hour."
We all know, logically, that if we want to be the world boxing champion we have to train every day, for years. If we want to beat the "Kobayashi Maru" scenario, we have to study computer hacking, every day, for years; but, we've been so inundated with the message that everything is instant and easy, that we've lost the ability to work slowly towards our goal.
Learning music is great for re-establishing the concept, "The slow and steady, wins the race."Here are some tips that have helped me develop an "every day effort" mindset:
- Set a regular time. At first you may need to move the time around to accommodate work, family, your favourite TV show, food; whatever, but once you have a time that works, stick with it.
- Have everything ready to go, or at least handy. Nothing stops you faster than having to re-arrange furniture or drive somewhere.
- Don't watch the clock. In fact, don't have a clock anywhere near you. Work until you finish or become so wretchedly uncomfortable that you have to stop.
- Don't fret if "today" is wasted. You will always have bad days. Things will go wrong; don't sweat it. Even if you only lasted for 10 minutes, that fine.
- Goals are good but don't become a slave to them. If you start of with a particular goal and get side-tracked, that's fine; that's how we discover new things.
- Enjoy it as much as you can, or at least take satisfaction in knowing that you put in some effort.
A side benefit of learning music to develop "every day effort", besides making you fun at parties, is this is transferable to other things in your life. One of my YouTube channels recently passed the 10 million view mark. I don't have any viral videos. I wasn't written up in a premier website. It wasn't luck. What I do do, is post a video everyday.
Many of my videos are terrible. Many are experiments. Many are too short. Many are too long. I've deleted countless failures and I've re-issued some with improvements. Not everything has to be gold.
This is the incredibly valuable lesson of music. A little effort every day and you can move mountains.
10,000 hours, we are told; it takes 10,000 hours to become expert in something. I don't know if that's true or not, but if you take on the "every day effort" mindset, in 27 years you will be glad you did.
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Researchers from Drexel University found that cancer patients who either listened to music or worked with a music therapist experienced a reduction in anxiety. The review by the Cochrane Collaboration included 1,891 people with cancer, and found that people who participated in music somehow not only had decreased anxiety, but also better blood pressure levels and improved moods, HealthDay reported.
If you listen to your iPod every day on your way to work or break out the guitar every evening, then you'll like this finding. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg reveals that listening to music every day lowers stress. The thesis was based on the results of two studies, which showed that people who listened to music also felt positive emotions. "But it should be pointed out that when studying emotional responses to music it is important to remember that all people do not respond in the exact same way to a piece of music and that one individual can respond differently to the same piece of music at different times, depending on both individual and situational factors," thesis author Marie Helsing said in a statement. "To get the positive effects of music, you have to listen to music that you like."
Listening to music while lying on the operating table could help to lower stress, TIME reported. The research, conducted by Cleveland Clinic researchers, included patients -- mostly with Parkinson's disease -- as they were undergoing brain surgery. The researchers found that the study participants who listened to pure melodies -- versus just rhythmic arrangements, or a mix of the two -- were comforted the most. Their brains also reflected this calming, TIME reported, with some of the study participants even falling asleep.
A 2011 study in the journal Psychology and Aging shows that being a lifelong musician is linked with better sound processing, the Washington Post reported. The study included 163 people (74 of whom had played music all their lives). The researchers also found a link between hearing test scores and the amount of time the study participants practiced their music, according to the Washington Post.
Odd as it may seem, University of Maryland Medical Center researchers have found a link between listening to music and heart health. The researchers found that listening to joyful music is linked with dilation of blood vessels' inner lining, meaning more flow of blood through the blood vessels. Specifically, the diameter of blood vessels grew by 26 percent when a person listened to happy music. However, the opposite effect was noted when a person listened to anxiety-triggering music -- blood vessel diameter decreased by 6 percent as a result. The research was presented in 2008 at a meeting of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from University of Utah Pain Research Center showed that listening to music is effective as a distraction for anxiety-prone people from feeling pain, and as a result, could help people feel less pain. The study, which included 143 people, was published in the Journal of Pain. The researchers found that music helped the study participants to have less arousal when shocked with non-dangerous fingertip electrodes.
Kids who take music lessons could be doing their brains a favor, according to Hong Kong researchers. WebMD reported that taking music lessons is linked with doing better on tests where you have to recall words you read on a list. And "the more music training during childhood, the better the verbal memory," study researcher Agnes S. Chan, PhD, a psychologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told WebMD. "This strongly implies that the better verbal memory in children with music training is not simply a matter of differences in age, education level, or their family's socioeconomic characteristics."
Having musical training could protect your mental sharpness in old age, according to a 2011 study in the journal Neuropsychology. HealthDay reported on the study of 70 people ages 60 to 83, with varying levels of music experience. The researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center found that the people who had the most musical training in their lives had the best mental sharpness, and scored the highest on brain functioning tests.
It may so far only be shown in mice, but it's still pretty amazing: Japanese researchers found that exposing mice to certain kinds of music was linked with "prolonged survival" after a heart transplant, Miller-McCune reported. The mice in the study were exposed to either Mozart, Verdi (opera music), New Age-type music, no music at all, or a sound frequency. Mice who listened to Mozart and Verdi had a longer survival time after the heart transplant, compared to the other mice, according to Miller-McCune.
Finnish researchers found that listening to music soon after a stroke could help with recovery, News Medical reported. Published in 2008 in the journal Brain, researchers found that listening to music was linked with improved verbal memory and attention among stroke patients, compared with listening to audio books or not listening to anything at all.
Massages are super-relaxing, sure -- but a study in the journal Depression and Anxiety shows that music could also do the trick, at least when it comes to decreasing anxiety. Researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who got 10 hour-long massages had the same decreased anxiety symptoms three months later as people who simply listened to music (and went sans-massage), HealthDay reported. The study included 68 people who received the 10 massages with music, laid down while listening to music (but didn't get a massage), or were wrapped with warm pads and towels while listening to music (but didn't get a massage), according to HealthDay.
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