Finding music among the madness – 3 simple tips to keep calm and thrive this holiday season

stress resizedIt’s begun already.  The holiday roller coaster of shopping, wrapping, planning, cleaning, decorating, cookie baking, inevitable weight gain, and impending financial fallout in the new year.  Did I forget anything?  The American Psychological Association has reported that during the holidays, people’s main causes of stress are “lack of time, “lack of money, and “pressure to give or get gifts.”  Oh, don’t forget the added negative emotions of fatigue, stress, irritability, sadness, anger, loneliness, and yes, bloating.  Have I completely bummed you out yet? But wait, there’s good news!  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Below are three simple music-related tips that can help you and your loved ones to maximize joy, decrease stress, and maybe – just maybe! – eliminate that pesky bloating.

3 musical tips for kicking this holiday season’s butt (in a good way)

  1.  Rock your holiday playlist.  Whether it’s listening to a killer mix in the car on the way to the mall (like HIMYM’s Barney’s playlist here), or embracing the Christmas cheesiness and belting out some tunes with the fam (like this great mix here), you better know what music will get you going so you can get things done.  I start playing the Christmas tunes on Pandora and my iPod typically the day after Thanksgiving.  Do whatever floats your boat and is appropriate for the activity (for tree decorating and cookie baking, I highly recommend Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas” – but only if you’re prepared for some uber cheese and nostalgia.  Oh, and *don’t*sacrifice your workout regimen to get everything done!  If you quit the gym and pick up where you left off on January 2nd, I guarantee you you’ll feel the wrath of the holiday bloat – and be sorry you had to tackle the gym with all the other New Years Resolution-ers.  Try to keep your regular (or slightly modified) workout regimen going throughout the holidays as best you can, and if need be create a new workout playlist (Pinterest is a good place to start) to keep you pumped up and pumping iron.
  2. Dance, gosh darn it.  Do you dance like Elaine from Seinfeld?  Is anyone really going to care when chances are they’ve got a pint of eggnog in them and won’t remember the night before with the utmost clarity?  You’ve probably had some invites for holiday shindigs, be they for work, family, neighborhood, or friends.  I’ll bet you any money (unless they’re vegan!) that those parties are going to have ooey gooey finger food out the wazoo.  I’m not saying don’t munch on some holiday goodies, but cut the munching with some dancing and frolicking, which will boost your endorphins (similar to a workout would) and balance out some of the caloric intake.  Make sure to drink plenty of water in between all the eggnog and champagne.  Didn’t get invited anywhere?  I refer you back to Tip #1 – create a playlist you love and dance yourself silly for a few minutes in between tasks.  You will feel better!
  3. Laugh.  That’s right, laugh.  Laughter has been shown to boost the immune system;  protect the heart by improving blood vessel function and increasing blood flow; increase endorphins; and be a great workout for your abs and your core.  Find (or start) a Laughter Club near you (they exist), and brush up on some great jokes for those holiday parties.  What does this have to do with music?  Lots.  Experiencing music as a connected group is not only empowering, it also as a rule elicits a bunch of laughter we didn’t even know we had inside us.  One of the first activities in my drum circle programs is to do an icebreaker that gets people laughing.  Laughing can put people on equal footing with each other and help tear down the walls we subconsciously build around ourselves through body language.  Laughter is universal, and it’s the simplest way to keep up those spirits during the holidays.

Are you ready to tackle this holiday season with an arsenal of simple ideas?  By now you should be ready to breeze through the holidays with your favorite songs, dance moves, and jokes at the ready.  What else works for you during the holidays to keep your sanity intact?  Post your favorite songs and musical activities below for the benefit of others!  (oh, yeah, and let us know if you eliminated that pesky bloating thing)  Contact me if you’re interested in bringing in some drums for your holiday shindig!

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Regular people: Extraordinary Happiness – what we can learn from the “Happy” video

Within the past week, you may have heard something about a 24-hour music video called “Happy.”  Rapper-producer Pharrell Williams recently released this video to the public which allows the viewer to skip around to different times of the day.  The upbeat video contains clips of a variety of people dancing and singing to the song while seemingly going about their daily lives.  In many instances, participants are walking through questionable neighborhoods at various times of the day, while onlookers stare at the spectacle of a freely joyful individual.

Why are the people in the video so darn happy, you might wonder?  In many cases their surroundings are less than stellar, and you might even question if they’d be about to get mugged in real life.  How do we separate ‘happiness’ from our financial state, geography, health, career, schedule, and/or support network?  The cliché answer is that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination or a tangible item.  But in order to approach that state of mind, you do need to make some very real shifts in your thoughts and actions.  Read on to find out how music and drumming could be the shifts you’re looking for.

Ever hear a song that made you feel you could totally take on the day? (mine is Good Lovin’ – whew, it gets me going!)  How challenging is it to stay energized after the song ends?  Listening to music can be a great mood lifter, but actually playing it (and dancing to it!) can have so many additional benefits.  How to do that in your already jam-packed life?  Well, where do you spend the bulk of your time?  If it’s at the office, then talk to HR about forming a wellness committee for the purposes of creating some stress relief drumming opportunities (like this organization did).  If it’s at home with the kids, then talk to other parents in your neighborhood about joining a family music program or creating one yourself.  If it’s in the car commuting – well, you’re just going to have to master the art of drumming on the steering wheel.  As the owner of Just Add Rhythm, of course I encourage you to contact me (or your local drum guru) to book some music and drumming events that will benefit your particular community.  It’s what I love to do!  But I recognize that we can’t all attend drum circles 24/7, and squeezing in you time can get pretty difficult.  So even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, find a way to connect with your inner rock star/opera singer/Tony Award winner and do something musical and rhythmic and social.

Your body and mind will thank you for it.  In addition to reducing stress and boosting the immune system, you can also lower blood pressure, help deal with grief, and improve your communication with others through music and drumming as a group.  Utilize your support networks to actively create some opportunities for happiness.  And if JAR can help, just say the word and we’ll be there!

chalk happy face


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Singing to your child can have musical and non-musical benefits

Parent child photoI had a parent tell me that her infant song loves to be sung to, even with her “tone-deaf voice.” Parents, listen up! YOUR voice is the most beautiful voice your child can hear, no matter what it sounds like. They don’t care if you can hit all the right notes; they respond to the resonance of the notes in your chest when you hold them close to you. Humming is especially helpful for them to hear AND feel. If you’re looking for lullaby time suggestions that are simple enough to learn, check out the following songs:

1. “Familion” by Hace Tuto Guagua (album: The Planet Sleeps)
2. “Godspeed” by the Dixie Chicks
3. “Lullabye (Goodnight my Angel)” by Billy Joel

Sing to your child; create rituals with them (at bedtime, bath time, meal time and play time) in which you can make up your own songs!  Starting these rituals early in childhood can have positive lasting benefits.

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