Mindfulness is a buzzword in our society’s lexicon. Everyone talks about practicing mindfulness – and for good reason. Mindfulness can improve our sense of health and well-being in a number of ways. In fact, mindfulness is at the heart of how I approach the work I do as a music therapist and counselor. But there are misconceptions about what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is more than meditation
For example, mindfulness is more than sitting in meditation and trying not to think. Of course, it is true that meditation is a powerful tool for practicing mindfulness. But mindfulness practices can take many forms.
One way I use mindfulness in working with clients is to the music. This is because for me mindfulness and music go hand in hand. There are many ways to use music and mindfulness together, some of which will be described in this article.
Mindfulness has Buddhist roots, but you don’t have to be a Buddhist
It is also true that mindfulness has deep roots in Buddhist teachings. Yet, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to be able to practice mindfulness or to benefit from it. The concept of mindfulness itself can be applied to anyone. It transcends specific religious or spiritual beliefs.
After all, we all benefit when we can be aware of our true experience of the present moment. Being aware of what we are feeling or thinking can help us better understand what we are doing. This in turn affects the way we treat ourselves and others.
What is mindfulness?
When people think of mindfulness, a certain image emerges. They often imagine someone sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat or cushion in silence. Surrounded by sage or incense, this person tries to “clear his mind of all thought.” It is a misrepresentation of mindfulness and meditation.
Although meditation can sometimes look like this, the truth is that we will never “completely empty our minds.” We will always have thoughts because this is how our brain works. However, mindfulness helps you not get caught up in your thoughts or feelings. Through the practice of mindfulness, you learn to recognize your thoughts and feelings without judgment. For those of you who suffer from anxiety or feelings of overwhelm, it can help you deal with your thoughts and feelings when you are feeling overloaded and uncertain.
Learn to be aware of your present moment experience
Mindfulness is about be present in the moment. It sharpens your awareness of yourself. In doing so, it helps you become more in tune with your thoughts and feelings. Once you are aware of how you are feeling, you can start making changes. This is where therapy, such as music therapy, comes in.
What is meditation
Meditation is a practice that involves being aware of your thoughts as they arise. Yes, meditation can sound like the stereotype I suggested earlier. Indeed, it often involves sitting quietly in a warm and welcoming space. Some people may lie down in silence. Others can walk. Everyone can focus their attention on their breathing as they meditate.
All meditation practices mindfulness, but all attention is not meditation. So meditation is not the only way to practice mindfulness.
The challenges of meditation
For some people, meditation can be difficult and / or unattainable. For people who are neurodivergent, such as those with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder, meditation can be difficult. This is because sitting in silence can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. They may need another activity to help them develop more mindfulness in their life.
Additionally, mindfulness meditation can be a trigger for people with a history of trauma. “For people who have experienced trauma, mindfulness meditation can actually end. exacerbating symptoms of traumatic stress. When asked to pay focused and sustained attention to their internal experience, trauma survivors may find themselves overwhelmed by flashbacks and heightened emotional arousal. 
This is one of the many reasons that when I practice mindfulness it is more than meditation. It’s a whole way of living you. My approach to mindfulness practice is also part of a trauma-informed perspective.
Music and mindfulness
It can be difficult to understand how mindfulness and music go together, but it’s actually a perfect marriage. Music can put people in a meditative state. Some people meditate to music. It can slow us down and increase our awareness of our senses.
Music can reinforce certain aspects of mindfulness. In a recent study, participants found that they were more likely to engage in guided meditation or increase body awareness through yoga postures when they had music available. 
Listening to or playing music on a regular basis can increase spontaneity and a more deliberate and meaningful way of being in the world. 
Music therapy and mindfulness interventions
There are many ways that music therapy interventions can be used in mindfulness practice. Music can sharpen our consciousness if we slow down and pay attention to what we hear or do.
Listening to music as a practice of mindfulness
One way to practice mindfulness through music is to listen to the music. You can follow specific parts of the music, such as lyrics, rhythms, rests / pauses, and specific instruments. This type of listening creates a greater awareness of the music you are listening to and keeps you in the present.
Following music like this also helps you track your thoughts and feelings. You become more aware of what to expect in the moment by listening to the music.
Making music as a practice of mindfulness
Another music therapy intervention when practicing mindfulness through music is Make music. It is important to listen to the experience. When you play music mindfully, you notice what it feels like to play an instrument. You hear the sounds you make and notice the thoughts and feelings that go with you while making music. Do you judge yourself? Do you allow yourself to be present in the music?
Switch to music as a practice of mindfulness
Another music therapy intervention that I use is to add movement to the music. Making music is a whole body experience. You can also use movements such as yoga, dancing or exercising to music. Being aware of how your body moves to the sound of music, even if it’s stamping or nodding your head, is one way to connect with the present moment. If you play music, you move your body to pay for the instrument.
The importance of breath
The last music therapy intervention I use when practicing mindfulness is breath. It is not just a music therapy procedure, because breathing is universal. But it is perhaps one of the most important mindfulness interventions. If you start to lose your focus, you catch your breath. If you focus on your breathing, you can change the way you view your thoughts and feelings. If you are feeling anxious or working on your own, slowing down your breathing helps you get your heart rate back to normal. You can focus on bodily sensations, music, and your thoughts and emotions.
Practice Mindfulness and Music at SoundWell Music Therapy
At SoundWell Music Therapy PLLC, I use music therapeutically to practice mindfulness. These can take different forms – from music to listening. Music and mindfulness go well together. There are many ways to use music and mindfulness together.
If this sounds like the type of therapeutic approach you are looking for, be sure to contact me. I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation where we can talk more about your needs. You can plan here.