Charlotte Hawkins: A Quick Blast of Music is an Instant Destresser

If you’re feeling stressed, our columnist and Classic FM presenter Charlotte may have the solution – musical mindfulness

When it comes to making our bodies and minds feel better, the focus is often on physical activity and the difference it can make. There’s no doubt that, even when you don’t feel like it, exercise will do the job and give you a boost. One thing I came to realise during the enforced lockdown earlier this year though, was that it’s not just activity, but inactivity that’s important. I noticed just how beneficial taking time out can be, and for me, listening to music plays a vital role in that. I find if I’ve had a stressful day, or I’m starting to feel like I have too much on and my head is spinning, those are the times when it helps to take some time out and immerse myself in music. For me it’s a slow, peaceful instrumental classical piece that usually does the job, one I can lose myself in. It’s good for the soul, and a form of musical mindfulness. It allows you to completely focus on the present, to forget everything for a time and let your brain reset.

Don’t just take my word for it, the research backs this up. Studies have shown that listening to music can help in so many different ways, whether it’s to tackle stress, to lift your mood, to help you concentrate and even help you deal with pain better. Research also found it can make you perform better, as a group who listened to Mozart before an IQ test got higher results than the group who didn’t.

Thanks to my show on Classic FM, I’m lucky as I get to play two hours of blissful music every Sunday evening, and my research involves sitting and listening to those pieces that make me feel better, which is never a chore! It means that I’ve got so many favourite pieces I love, and I know will be just what I need for an instant musical hug.

Here are my tips for getting some musical mindfulness in your life:

1. When you feel like things are getting too much, when your head can’t focus or make sense of things, that’s a good time to step away and give yourself a few minutes to listen to music. It’ll clear your head and allow you to reset, ready to face the world again.

2. For the full immersive experience, set the scene. Have a bath, light a scented candle, sit down outdoors, curl up in a favourite armchair, or lie in bed.

3. A great way to focus on just you and the music is to learn to play an instrument. I re-learnt the piano last year and found it’s a great way of keeping you in the moment, helping you connect with the music and forget everything while you work towards a goal, giving you a great sense of achievement.

4. Put together a selection of your ‘go-to’ pieces that you know will help. Whether it’s a favourite playlist or album, it’s useful to have music that will allow you to drift off, and help your mood, whether that’s relaxing or uplifting.

5. The good thing about musical mindfulness is you can take it with you wherever you go, and with just the touch of a button and a quick blast of music, it’s an instant destresser.

Health & Wellbeing