June 12, 2020
Music and Emotional Wellbeing for the Whole Family
How have you been feeling lately? Are you, like many of us, struggling to emotionally cope with the rapid changes and uncertain future generated by the COVID-19 pandemic? Coping with your own emotions is often hard enough, but coping can pose an even greater challenge when you have the added responsibility of caring for others’ emotional health too. Although these are difficult times, there are fortunately plenty of ways in which you can promote the emotional wellbeing of your entire family. Today we will share a few ideas for supporting emotional wellbeing with music, but we encourage you to explore other strategies too and find what works best for your family.
First, it is easier to help others stay emotionally healthy if you practice regular self-care. Not sure where to begin? Assess your wellbeing and learn about popular strategies for promoting wellness through the website Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing, created by one of our partners, the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing. If you are specifically looking for opportunities to enhance your wellbeing with music, check out our yoga playlists and resources for listening to music mindfully and listening to music for stress relief.
When it comes to regulating emotions, remember that emotional intelligence involves a set of skills that are sometimes difficult to implement in highly-charged moments. Look for opportunities to safely investigate different emotions and build skills over time. Try our Exploring Emotions activity to practice identifying emotions in music, describing how these emotions make you feel physically, using a variety of emotion words to label feelings, and experimenting with strategies for using music to boost your mood. After you complete the activity once, try it again with a homemade playlist to see how other pieces of music make you feel.
To take a closer look at emotional responses to daily interactions and events, encourage family members to keep a musical journal with our Daily Soundtrack activity. Select pieces that represent how you feel at different points during the day, and find time to regularly listen to the chosen music and discuss how you are feeling together. Use our Emotion Word List as a resource if you want help finding the right labels for your emotions. During the discussions, model how to express a variety of emotions in a healthy manner, validate and listen without judgment to how others feel, and coach family members to come up with their own coping strategies when needed.
During times of uncertainty, it can feel empowering to know that there are still areas of your life where you have agency. Help your family members remember that they have some control over their lives by giving them musical choices—whether it is selecting pieces for listening, developing their own stories to accompany a piece of music, or deciding how to express themselves through original compositions. For instance, you can invite family members to create their own story to Peter and the Wolf, make their own instruments, or design their own virtual musical journey to the art museum or the zoo.
In addition to offering choices to family members, it is important to make sure that they feel a sense of security even during uncertain times. Help family members know what to expect each day by developing and maintaining a routine, and experiment to see if there are ways in which music might cue transitions or otherwise reinforce your daily structure. For example, you can help children relax by singing a lullaby before naptime or bedtime. Music can also remind family members to take needed breaks from school or work. Play pieces from our Classical Dance Party Playlist to encourage short movement breaks that recharge the body and mind throughout the day. There is no right or wrong way to move to the music in the playlist. Get creative with your moves, and help everyone feel that their contributions are valued by inviting different family members to take turns leading the dancing.
When it comes to supporting emotional wellbeing with music, the possibilities are endless. Think about what will work best for your family, and try one of the above activities or come up with your own. Don’t forget that although engaging with music is often therapeutic, it is not a cure-all. Sometimes you need additional help to stay well, and that is okay. Visit the Minnesota Department of Health for additional mental health resources or parenting support resources.
From the Minnesota Orchestra family to your family, be well. Thank you for connecting with us online, and we look forward to the day when we can see you in person at Orchestra Hall again!