Why do you listen to music? Does it make you happy, calm or exhilarated? For most people, music brings feelings of pleasure, deep emotion, calmness and concentration. However, Portland State’s new Mindfulness Through Music program proves that music can actually help with your homework, too.
Why do you listen to music? Does it make you happy, calm or exhilarated?
For most people, music brings feelings of pleasure, deep emotion, calmness and concentration. However, Portland State’s new Mindfulness Through Music program proves that music can actually help with your homework, too.
The program, organized by the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), encourages students to use their favorite tunes to succeed and improve their health and happiness.
According to the American College Health Association, 10 key factors most influence student success. These factors include stress, sleep difficulties, relationship difficulties, depression and anxiety, and time lost due to illness or pain.
Studies show that most students resort to harmful, temporary alleviations–such as drugs, alcohol and overeating–when negative factors arise.
Mindfulness Through Music is designed to allow students to address such issues in a healthy way, so they can eventually use their acquired skills to improve their mood, stress level and concentration.
The term “mindfulness” refers to formal procedures that alter the fabric of your consciousness by increasing baseline clarity and equanimity, or mental composure, said Bob Liebman, a licensed clinical social worker who runs the program.
“When people think of ‘mindfulness,’ it often conjures images of Buddha, meditation and sitting in a circle on cushions. But you don’t need those to gain mindfulness skills,” Liebman said.
PSU’s program derives from the work of Shinzen Young, a Vipassana meditation teacher with an honorary doctorate from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.
The program, Liebman said, includes contemporary reformations of ancient strategies that have been used for centuries.
During each session, participants practice one of four contrasting ways of directing sensory focus using their own music, which can be as simple as bringing a portable music player, then working to listen to their favorite songs in a particular way, Liebman said.
Next, the technique is practiced in a more general framework, without using music. Finally, participants engage in a detailed discussion regarding how those techniques can be applied to specific issues in each individual’s respective life.
Usually, someone will experience what are called peak states–moments of concentration, pleasure, emotion or calm–while listening to music, Liebman said.
With practice, peak states can occur every time one listens to music, a technique that can be refined to eventually be applied generally, so that they can maintain that state throughout their daily activities, he said.
This not only allows people to enjoy music more, but improves concentration for academic performance and provides relief from physical and emotional pain, Liebman said.
According to student feedback and scientific research, the Mindfulness Through Music program has shown positive results, and has been thoroughly validated for stress reduction.
Similarly, studies at Harvard University and UCLA are exploring how mindfulness practices actually slow the rate at which the brain shrinks with age, as well as how “mental labeling,” one of the main techniques in the program, helps free people of negative emotions.
Liebman said so far the program has been a success.
“Using music has been a really accessible way to introduce these stress-management and emotional regulation strategies,” he said.
Interested students can check out the Mindfulness Through Music program Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. through Nov. 20 in room 220 of the Ondine building.