Mind your music – why meditating to music might help you after a stroke

June 15, 2018

Many of us tend to get caught up in our day-to-day activities, running from one appointment to the next without thinking much about what we are doing. And as we get wrapped up in the busyness of life, our emotions can also get away from us. Something like getting stuck by a red light can seem like the worst possible thing that could ever happen. We’ve all been there, but there is a way to step back and gain perspective. And, at the same time, keep your emotions in check. Mindfulness meditation turns out to help people fight conditions like depression and anxiety and stabilize their emotions. And, recently scientists have found out it can help stroke patients too.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is the art of controlling both your attention and emotions. Sounds simple? But, it is actually incredibly hard. It involves forcing yourself to experience the moment you are in and accepting it for what it is, removing judgments like good or bad. It’s a way of helping you gain perspective and awareness. And, if mastered, meditation can change the structure and function of your brain. Usually, it changes regions associated with attention, emotion, and self-awareness.

In this video a monk explains the concept of mindfulness

Why mindfulness might help people with stroke

Many patients suffer from mood disorders or other cognitive problems in the aftermath of a stroke. Can mindfulness meditation help these people? Initial research has found evidence saying yes. Recently, researchers studied how mindfulness while listening to music might affect stroke patients. They recruited 56 patients for an 8-week intervention beginning 1-month post-stroke. Patients were asked to either listen to music, use mindfulness practices while listening to music, or listen to an audiobook.

Patients who were asked to do “mindful” music listening learned one of two simple exercises. One is the “Body Scan” and the other “Following the Breath”. These mind exercises encourage patients to focus on the presence of their own bodies or breath. Every day, patients practiced these mind exercises for 5 minutes before listening to music of their choice. At the end of the daily intervention, researchers asked patients to focus their attention away from themselves and to the music instead.

Why mindfulness and music really work

It turns out that listening interventions were overall a very positive experience for stroke patients. Music is a great distraction from worries and anxious thoughts. Patients felt their moods lift as they listened to music. They reported higher activity both during and after the exercise.

Interestingly, listening to music with or without mindfulness triggered memories to resurface in patients. However, those who were listening to audiobooks did not experience this as much.

Some of the participants practicing mindful music listening reported better control over their anger when faced with challenges. The evidence suggests that using mindfulness with music therapy helped increase relaxation, concentration, emotional regulation, overall enjoyment, and improved attentional control.

This video explains how mindfulness meditation works

Minding your mindfulness

Mindful music listening seems to help stroke patients in many ways. Not only can it increase enjoyment, but you might also fight mood and cognitive disorders. The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s good for you and absolutely free. All it takes is the cost of time and effort on your part. If you’ve never attempted to use mindfulness technique, it’s time to give it a try. Don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult at first, the practice makes perfect!

The lead author of this study is Satu Baylan, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

Combining mindfulness meditation with music can help stroke patients with attention and mood.

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