Continuing the series on Wellness and Music Therapy, this week features Intellectual Wellness.
Intellectual wellness refers to the health of our mind. Exercising your brain to reduce the chance of getting dementia has been encouraged for years. Cognition relates to attention, memory, decision-making, planning, sequencing, learning, judgment, and critical thinking skills. Music stimulates many parts of the brain at once because melody, harmony, rhythm, singing, memories evoked by the music, associations to the music, and all the parts of this complex stimulus activate different parts of the brain. Music therapists can use music in specific ways to work on specific areas of need for our clients.
3 ways you can stimulate your brain with music:
1. Create a playlist of your most loved songs. Whenever you listen to them, your body will respond by relaxing tense muscles, you may want to move and dance, you may start to feel happy. You can listen to this playlist over speakers, or if you are in a noisy environment or have difficulty processing auditory information (sounds), try headphones. Just make sure that you keep the volume at a reasonable level so that you don’t damage your hearing. If you visit someone with dementia, you can create a playlist with music that is special to them. Sometimes, the direct auditory input of using headphones can be more beneficial, but be aware of signs of agitation or over-stimulation and keep the volume low enough to have a conversation with them. The music can help the person with dementia be able to interact with you more meaningfully. Just remember that music is not a replacement for interaction!
2. Sing. Singing has many benefits for your brain, especially if you sing in a group, like at a concert or at church. It helps to coordinate your eyes and ears, and assists with motor planning. It helps you to be present and feel connected to others.
3. Learn a new instrument or practice one you already play. Learning and practicing music help to keep your brain sharp by working on spacial relationships, decision-making, and sequencing skills.
Keep your brain healthy by making music!