Supporting The Mind-Body Connection with Music

There’s a connection between our minds and bodies. We aren’t always aware of it. But the mind-body connection strong. Our thoughts and feelings affect our physical bodies and our health, and vice versa.

There is also a connection between music, movement, and the body. Movement and rhythm affect and are influenced by our thoughts and feelings. Using full-body movements through music can increase our health and clarify our thoughts and emotions.

A silhouette of a person seated in a meditative position. The silhouette is filled with an image from outer space. The caption reads, "Tune Into Your Mind-Body Connection With Music."

Music is a great way to foster the body-mind connection. Making music by drumming and vocalizing are two ways to get into your body and connect to what’s going on in your mind and in your heart.

Most of us struggle with finding balance in our lives. We go in and out of equilibrium. Often we hear and feel that in music, through resonance or melody and dissonance. This is a great representation of going back and forth between homeostasis. It’s normal. We just need the tools to regulate ourselves when we’re out of equilibrium. 

The Music of Our Bodies, Minds, and Hearts

It is possible to see various components of music within different aspects of who we are. Our state of health and well-being, along with our state of mind can be understood and experienced as musical. Some of these musical components that we can experience and hear include rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Rhythm

For example, rhythm isn’t just part of music. There is a rhythm to our lives. Our bodies have their own rhythms. Breath has a rhythm to it. Our heart beat has a rhythm to it. So does the way we walk, talk, vocalize, and move. Circadian rhythms are connected to sleep. Women have specific ovulation and menstrual cycles and rhythms.

Melody

As well, there is a melody to how we move through the world and a vibrancy to the way we speak. This illustrates ways that music influences the body and its rhythms. When we play or listen to music, our physical rhythms sync up to the music. We feel and entrain to the beat. Our bodies may move with the rhythms. While there’s a rhythm to how we speak, there can also be a lightness and a lilt to it. At times, there can also be a monotonous flatness to our speech. The melodic or tonal qualities of our voices can reflect our state of health and state of mind.

Harmony

But there is also a rhythm and sense of harmony to our emotions. We feel ups and downs. For people with mood disorders, your mood goes through cycles. Often these cycles are tied to your circadian rhythms, which are connected to sleep. There is a rhythm to your mood. And those rhythms are connected to your body. [1] Sometimes your emotional rhythm feels steady, while other times it may feel unsteady. You can feel aligned or in harmony with your thoughts and emotions, while other times you may not.

Developing a Sense of Rhythm

We all possess innate rhythms within us. There is a rhythm to the way we move. It’s developed over time. We start out as babies with simple rhythms like clapping and tapping our feet. Eventually, we move into more complex rhythms such as jumping, skipping, and galloping. [2]

The process of developing rhythm is organic for some people. But for others, it must be learned or relearned. For people with neurodevelopmental delays or mental health diagnoses such as psychotic disorders, rhythms can be delayed or fragmented. How well a person can keep a beat is a reflection of neurological functioning.

Entrainment and Attunement

Part of how this happens is through entrainment and attunement. Entrainment and attunement are all about synchronization. Entrainment is when rhythms sync up, like clocks in the same room. [3] The swinging pendulum of a clock will entrain with the other clocks in the room. It is very common for people to entrain to music. This is true across cultures. Entrainment to music involves the auditory, visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular senses. [4]

Like clocks syncing up, humans do this too. You might find yourself breathing in the same rhythm as the person next to you or falling into step when walking with a friend. 

Attunement is when you become “in tune” with another person. It’s how we form relationships and express empathy. When you see someone doing something, you can attune to what they’re doing. In this process, you understand what is going on with the person. You develop empathy through the process of attunement and can feel what that person is going through. [5]

Entraining and Attuning Through Music

When working with people in a music therapy setting, the goal is to get entrained and attuned. We do this by making music together. We use music to sync up our rhythms and connect to one another. This helps us feel more connected to ourselves. When we connect to other people, we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. That’s one of the ways music therapy supports the mind-body connection.

An example of how this happens through music is when I’m drumming with another person. Sometimes, it’s difficult for people to find or keep a beat. I’ll keep a steady beat and eventually my client will sync up, or entrain, with me and the rhythms I’m creating. 

Likewise, as a therapist, I’m always working to attune with my client to be able to meet them where they’re at. I do this through my body language and facial expressions, but I can also do this musically. Musically I attune with them through the iso-principle where the music I play or create matches the energy or intensity of the client. I gauge this by the things they say, how they say it, and how they’re holding their bodies.

Fostering the Mind-Body Connection Through Music

Music is often a reflection of health, including physical, mental, and emotional health. Two effective ways of finding a mind-body connection through music is by singing and drumming.

Experiencing the Mind-Body Connection Through Your Voice

Singing is a full-body musical activity that requires breath support and an awareness of your body. If you have tension or tightness it’s harder to create a clear sound. 

Through greater awareness of your body, you can become clearer on what thoughts and emotions you are having connected to the music you’re making. If you feel nervous or judgmental about your voice, it will affect the sound that comes out of your mouth. When you feel nervous, you hold tension in different places, making it harder to make clear sounds.

For example, if you’re holding tension in your neck, your voice will sound tight and constrained. It may be difficult to hear. This may then cause you to judge yourself. You may tell yourself that you “can’t sing” or that you “don’t have a good voice.” This, in turn, may make you think that you aren’t “good enough” or worthy.” It’s a vicious cycle. This is just one way that the mind-body connection shows up in music therapy and one area of personal growth and development that music therapy can address.

Vocalizing is the most full-body musical experience. It can take the form of singing, but it can also take the form of simply making sound with your voice. It truly connects the mind, body, and heart. By that I mean you’re connecting the way you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally through the act of singing. What thoughts and feelings are coming up for you? What body sensations are you feeling? How are they connected?

Experiencing the Mind-Body Connection Through Drumming

Drumming is another way to find the mind-body connection through music. This is because it is also a full-body experience, although different from singing. You need to use your arms and your core abdominal muscles to create the sounds. Depending on the percussion instrument you’re using, you might also be using your legs.

Drumming is the surest way to create a beat. Rhythm is one way we can connect to others. It’s also a way to connect to ourselves. If we can feel the beat of our heart, the rhythm of our breath, and the rhythm of the music we become more aware of our physical, mental, and emotional state. Drumming represents those rhythms. We become entrained to the music we’re making through drumming.

Expressing Ourselves Through Music

Music is a way to express what’s going on in our hearts and minds. You can use rhythms, melodies, chants, and lyrics to express how you feel. Thoughts may arise as you make music. Music is a powerful and holistic way to express ourselves

Vocalizing

One way to express yourself is through vocalizations. It doesn’t have to be singing. You can make sounds that express how you feel. Sometimes we make a sound and become aware of a thought or a feeling that we didn’t know existed at that moment. That’s how music therapy supports a mind-body connection. The music provides the structure for the exploration.

I often work with people to create simple affirmations. We turn these into chants. Sometimes songs and melodies happen, but any stage of this process is a good place to start. If we do create a melody, we work together to put it in their vocal range so that it’s comfortable for them to sing. 

Experiencing the sensation of singing a melody you created that expresses your thoughts and feelings is another way to foster the mind-body connection. You use your body to create a sound that is either influenced by or influences the way you feel and/or the thoughts you have at that moment.

Mindful Movement

Because we’re talking about the mind-body connection, this discussion wouldn’t be complete without mentioning movement. There are many ways to move mindfully. One of those ways is through Alexander Technique, which is a type of movement practice that embraces moving mindfully through life. Alexander Technique focuses on anatomy and the way your physical body moves. It optimizes the way we move. [6] It’s very helpful for singing. As a vocalist prior to becoming a music therapist and counselor, my approach to singing was heavily informed by the Alexander Technique and this awareness continues to inform my work as a therapist.

Posture

It’s also important to be aware of how you hold yourself. Good posture is essential for singing. It’s also important when we think of connecting our bodies, minds, and hearts. If you’re slumped over with your head down and your back curved you’re going to feel differently than if you stand tall with your shoulders back and your head held high. In these instances, your posture affects your thoughts and feelings, which in turn affect your posture. This is one more example of the mind-body connection.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is important when it comes to the mind-body connection. Music and mindfulness go well together. Through mindful movement and music-making, you become more aware of what you’re thinking and feeling in the present moment.

The music therapy process provides an opportunity to express yourself. You talk with your music therapist about what you’re thinking and feeling at that moment. You notice whether your thoughts and emotions have shifted as a result of making music. That is the mind-body connection supported by music therapy.

Find Your Mind-Body Connection at SoundWell Music Therapy

At SoundWell Music Therapy, I support a mind-body connection through the music therapy process. Together we create music and process what those sounds or rhythms do for your mind, heart, and body.

If you’re ready to expand your therapy horizons, foster a mind-body connection, and explore music therapy with me at SoundWell Music Therapy, be sure to contact me. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation during which we can talk more about what your needs are. You can schedule here.

Resources

[1]https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-your-sleep-and-wake-cycles-affect-your-mood-2020051319792 

[2]http://www.kestenbergmovementprofile.org/video.htm 

[3]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01185/full#:~:text=Entrainment%20is%20defined%20by%20a,(e.g.%2C%20fire%20flies) 

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240960/ 

[5]https://momentousinstitute.org/blog/what-is-attunement 

[6]https://alexandertechnique.com/at/#whatisit 

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