Combining Music, Meditation and Self Care
Posted by hollyashby
26th Nov 2018

For many of us, life can often seem chaotic, like we’re being dragged along for the ride rather than sitting behind the steering wheel. For those looking to lead a happier, more balanced life, practising self care is a fantastic tool, as it is completely adaptable to suit any lifestyle. Whether it’s using that gym membership you’ve been putting off, improving your nutrition or taking a meditation class, there’s a self care ritual out there for everyone.

Though not a self care technique in itself, music is something that can be introduced into almost any aspect of life, whether it be during a hot bath or a sweaty Pilates class. Music is a language that is universal to every human being on earth and has been a part of our lives for thousands of years. In fact, some theories suggest that humans were singing before we even uttered a spoken word.

No matter whether we experience it through a set of earphones, or live in a crowded stadium, music has the universal power to affect our moods and engage our minds. By incorporating it into the everyday aspects of self care, we’re able to access the countless benefits that music can have on our mental health.

The Mental Health Benefits of Music

Whether we’ve cried to a sad song to help us after a break-up, or had a spontaneous bedroom dance party to our favourite pop anthem, music will often be the first thing many of us turn to when trying to deal with or express how we feel. In fact, music is such a part of our lives already that we probably don’t even realise what an effect it has on our moods, psychology and mental health.

The link between music and the mind is so strong that it is even used as part of mental health treatment, in the form of music therapy. In a study conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, participants were exposed to music therapy alongside other mental health treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Results showed that participants exhibited greater improvements in their anxiety and depression than those who were not exposed to music.

The wellness benefits of music are so powerful that they do not stop at the mind. In some cultures, music is even thought to help heal physical ailments as well as mental ones. In Chinese medical theory, it is thought that the five internal organ and meridian systems also have corresponding musical tones, and that the use of these can encourage the healing of the body.

One thing is for sure: you don’t need to be a medical expert to incorporate music into everyday self care. The benefits of listening to, playing or even writing music can be substantial, and can be felt during even the most mundane activities.

The Perfect Song Selection

We’ve all experienced that “feel good” moment when listening to an upbeat song, and it’s all thanks to the dopamine that our brains release whenever we listen to music. However, it was recently discovered that we release 9% more dopamine when listening to music we particularly enjoy or are familiar with. So many of us can be bogged down by listening to songs and artists we feel we “should” be listening to, that we’re not actually listening to what makes us feel good. Therefore, the first step to take in allowing music to transform your mood is to make the right selection.

Not only can listening to your favourite music literally affect your brain’s chemistry, but taking the time to discover what sort of music makes you tick can have other less obvious mental health benefits. The majority of us are glued to our phone and laptop screens for most of the day for one reason or another, when we should be trying to escape this bubble.

If “unplugging” is one of your self care milestones, then music can be a fantastic gateway into this. Music existed long before Spotify, and treating yourself to an old CD player or turntable can be a nostalgic, joyous experience. What better way is there to fill your afternoons than by perusing piles of old abandoned records, rather than social media posts?

Even if going analogue isn’t for you, simply creating mood specific playlists can go a long way towards helping you recognise, access and even deal with your emotions. Self care is not synonymous with putting pressure on ourselves to feel constantly “happy”, and having a special song selection dedicated to those moments when we need to cry can be a cathartic and meaningful experience.

Music For Motivation

Once you’ve prepared your perfect personalised playlist for every occasion, it should be that much easier to find the motivation for self care rituals that can seem mundane, difficult or unfamiliar.

For example, exercise is a self care staple that has countless benefits for both the mind and body, but is not the easiest of self care goals to complete. Though many of us enjoy the endorphins we get from a good workout, finding the motivation is not always easy, especially if we lead busy and unpredictable lives.

Turning to your gym playlist can be a lifesaver if you’re either struggling to go to the gym in the first place, or need an extra kick to wake you up when you’re already there. Even having upbeat music on hand when cooking or cleaning can encourage you to turn your spring clean into a dance party that will help lift your mood and relieve any excess stress.

Meditating to Music

For some people, meditation can be another fantastic form of stress release that can be practiced absolutely anywhere. Despite its accessibility and the many benefits of meditation, some people still feel, for a number of reasons, some trepidation when considering the idea.

Listening to familiar music that makes you feel more at ease, regardless of the style or genre, can be a great gateway into meditative practices if you are feeling unsure to begin with. It is understandable that you may feel unable to unwind properly if you’re meditating to your favourite punk rock song, and meditation may not accommodate all of your musical tastes.

Luckily, the world is your oyster when it comes to finding the perfect music to relax to. Whether it’s YouTube or even dedicated radio stations that play meditation music all day long, there is a meditation playlist out there to suit everyone. There’s also the option of simply meditating before you listen to a favourite album – the feelings of focus and awareness that often follow meditation can make listening to music a more immersive and relaxing experience.

Even if your favourite playlist isn’t enough to take up meditation, there are numerous ways in which music and meditation can work hand in hand that may be a better fit for you. For example, guided meditation classes that incorporate a musical element could benefit you if you’re at a loss as to where to start with meditation, and don’t feel confident enough to do it on your own.

Treat Yourself

It is not just recorded music that is proven to alleviate stress and aid in improved mental health. Studies have shown that live music events such as concerts, with the combined effects of live music and a shared social experience, can have a positive impact on our psyches. In fact, a study from the Centre for Performance Science at the Royal College of Music in London discovered a direct correlation between test subjects listening to live music and a reduction in stress-related hormones.

Whether music has been a hobby of yours your entire life, or you’ve only just discovered the addictive pastime of vinyl collecting, planning a trip to a concert can be a great excuse to treat yourself. Never forget that treating ourselves is as much an aspect of self care as eating healthy or keeping active. Not only will your adrenaline and dopamine levels be sky high even hours after the concert has ended, but you will likely feel a powerful social connection that is unique these sorts of shared artistic experiences. Even if the songs you sang along to meant nothing to you on the day, it is likely they will end up in a future mood playlist to pick you up when you’re feeling down.


Music is one of the very few things that can connect us all in one way or another, crossing boundaries, cultures and languages. By combining music with self care, rituals that seem challenging, boring or daunting can feel exciting and brand new every time.

How many times have we kept to a workout schedule only to give up after a few weeks? Depending on the style, genre, tone and artist, music can create a unique and individual experience every single time we hear it, even if we’re performing the same task every day.

For those times when we need a little extra push to smile, cry, or even relax, music has been proven to affect our moods in every way imaginable. Whether it is triggering sleep or triggering memories, music has formed a strong relationship with our brains that is unlikely to stop any time soon.

Holly Ashby is a wellness writer who works with Beeja Meditation, a London based meditation company who help people cope with the effects of stress and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

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