Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help you cultivate a more positive outlook and sense of peace, but sometimes when you're in a funk, it can be really difficult to focus your mind enough to focus on your practice, even if you know it'll help you come back to center. When this happens to me, I like to use music to help me realign my energy and focus on mindfulness. Music is something I can always count on to change my mood. Something about hearing a song with a killer beat and uplifting lyrics can diffuse any upset I'm experiencing in a matter of minutes so I can regain the clarity and calm I need to get back on track. Here are some ways that I use music as part of my mindfulness practice:
1. Make a playlist (or a few) to boost your mood
I have a happiness playlist and a power playlist that are both filled with songs I know are guaranteed to help boost my mood when I'm feeling sad or angry. My happiness playlist has songs that are upbeat, and that I love to sing along with because I know that singing out loud when I'm in my car or cooking dinner is another activity that brings me up to 100 right away. My power playlist is very similar, but I specifically curate it with songs that make me feel like a powerful badass who can take on anything. You might have a few songs that come to mind right away, but even if you don't, it's okay! Create a playlist and anytime a song comes on that makes you feel amazing, add it to the list right then so you can come back to it in the future. Note: it's dangerously easy to go the opposite way and be drawn towards sad songs that will fuel your emotions when you're feeling sad. While it isn't bad to have a song or two on hand for when you need a good cry, don't let yourself get sucked in to the downward emotional spiral of listening to sad songs when you already aren't feeling too good.
2. Find your anthem
Like your power playlist, but to the extreme. This is the one song that is absolutely, positively, 100% GUARANTEED to make you feel invincible. You want this baby locked and loaded so that when the moment strikes, you are ready to go with minimal searching. Take extra care in choosing this song. Pick something that has lyrics that really speak to you, and lift you up. My personal power anthem is "One Foot" by Walk the Moon. The steady, upbeat tempo and burst of energy at the chorus never fail me. Each time that chorus bursts forth, I feel like there are sparks of golden light (like what would come off a welder's torch) shooting out of my heart, and it makes me feel like I'm connected to the universe. Plus, the positive message of just putting "one foot in front of the other" helps lift me out of even my lowest moments.
3. Notice how the music physically makes you feel
Okay, so maybe you don't feel golden light energy shooting out of your chest, BUT pay attention to the physical response you have to the music you choose to listen to. It might be as simple as noticing the impulse to move your body or clap your hands to the beat, or it might be a more ethereal feeling as if you're connected to something bigger. I love to find music that gives me goosebumps from a beautifully played chord or a steady beat that I can physically feel like a heartbeat or an undulating wave of energy. It makes me feel like I'm connected to something larger than myself, like the universe or humanity as a whole. I've been enjoying the song "Delta" by Mumford & Sons because the soft drum beat that gradually grows and transitions the song, along with the back track of voice chatter, give me almost an omniscient feeling, like I can see the world as a whole, and appreciate the subtleties of humanity.
4. Pay attention to the lyrics
A big part of mindfulness is paying careful attention to the words we use so that we can draw more positive energy towards us. If you don't already, start listening more carefully to the lyrics of the songs you listen to most often. Do they reflect the way you want to feel? This is particularly important when you're using music to help change your mood or your outlook. There are plenty of songs with an uptempo beat that have rather somber or negative lyrics. Play songs that have meaningful lyrics that make you feel good. Bonus points if they are true works of poetry and art as well!
5. Get it in on the action - play or sing your heart out!
Listening to music is great, but being part of it is even better! I may not be the best singer in the world, and I can't play a single instrument (except maybe the tambourine) but I truly love to rock out and sing along to my favorite songs in the car, in the shower, or while I'm cooking or doing chores around the house, and so I don't let my musical inabilities hinder me from experiencing joy. It's an instant uplevel for your musical mindfulness practice!
How do you add music to your mindfulness practice? Let me know in the comments!
I want to talk today about why I think the body positivity movement does more harm than good, but even before I type these words, I know this is not going to be a popular opinion. I know that there will be some people who freak out at what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway because I'm sick of hearing the praises of this movement that, for me, is counterproductive and toxic. I know you may not agree, but I'd ask you to at least hear me out before you jump to conclusions about me.
Before we get into this, I want to acknowledge up front that as 5'1" 105lb woman, I have a different perspective on this and a different experience in the world from many other women. I fully understand that there are people who benefit from this movement, and I in no way begrudge them! I believe that each and every person should do what makes them feel empowered, strong, and beautiful, but that's exactly why I want to address this issue. Because the body positivity movement is not as inclusive and embracing of all bodies as it claims to be. In fact, as many movements of this nature tend to do, it simply shifts the negativity to a different group. And it just so happens that's where I fit in.
I am a small woman, I fully admit it. I prioritize health, but truly, I've always been small. My entire life, I was always the shortest one in the class, always significantly smaller than my completely average sized friends. I value health and fitness, but I also just have the good fortune of good genetics, which have allowed me to remain pretty much the same size I was in high school, even a decade after graduation - and maybe even a little lighter now that I prioritize frequenting the gym. I'm lucky, and I know this.
But the so called "body positivity movement" does not have room for me. They do not want me. You know how I know this? Because every article, every video, every TED talk and blog post will tell you how "big is beautiful" and "we need to stop showing our girls that size 0 is the standard of beauty." But this is the way I am. I have not starved myself to a size 00P, it's simply just the size my body wants to be. Instead of helping women to feel included and beautiful exactly the way they are, it simply shifts the hateful words to a different group.
Before you start to tell me that I don't understand how it feels to be a bigger woman, and that being small can't be that hard, let me explain. I know that I will likely never understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the spectrum. You're right, I don't know what it feels like. But I also don't try to make others feel bad for feeling beautiful in exactly the skin they are in. And while I might not understand that side of it, those same people probably wouldn't understand mine either. Do you know how many times someone has told me that I'm too skinny, or that I look like a little kid? Do you know how hard it is to be taken seriously, or to feel sexy when people look at you and tell you it looks like you're a kid playing dress up in adult's clothing? I've had co-workers and friends say things in front of me such as "Who wears a size 0? That's not even a real size. How can a person be a 0? They must not be a real person, just fake and unhealthy" without even realizing that sometimes even a 0 is too big for me. Another common misconception is that skinny women have no issues finding a man. Many men have rejected me because my chest size was too small, or I was too bony or thin. I've been turned down for looking too young, too childlike, etc. And my self-confidence has taken more hits than I care to admit because of these reasons.
All my life I've had this struggle, so when I first heard about this body positivity movement, I thought it would be a step toward acceptance for ALL, but instead, it proved to be just another voice telling me that I'm somehow wrong. I think it may have started with the right intention, because a size 0 that is only attained through starvation and excessive exercise is not healthy, either physically or emotionally, and I in no way advocate for that. But for those of us who are naturally smaller women, this movement is just as hurtful as fat-shaming, and I don't think it's okay. It's become a rallying cry for women who have been shamed and hurt in the past to try to make themselves feel better by putting a different group down. That's the honest truth about how I view it. I would never dream of telling another woman that she shouldn't be the size she is. It is absolutely none of my business, and I firmly believe that every woman should feel confident and beautiful. It's not my place to tell her how that should look. But, I would hope that I would be given that same respect in return.
This opinion is in NO WAY meant to shame anyone. On the contrary, I just want to bring attention to the fact that sometimes the things we say inadvertently shame others. And this is the most damaging part of this so-called positive movement: instead of bringing us together and helping us support one another, it is yet another means of driving a wedge into our community of sisterhood. We do not need to further contribute to the comparisons and judgments already placed upon us by society. We need a new view on body positivity that truly inspires positive change, without judgment. So, instead of jumping on a positivity bandwagon that might be hurtful to other groups, try these ideas instead:
1. Reframe the problem - instead of discussing sizes, let's discuss the societal issues which cause the negative feelings in the first place. Help yourself and others to see how even seemingly positive messages can sometimes still tear us down - and then change the way you use your own voice to contribute a message that is truly positive, inclusive, and uplifting.
2. Better yet, instead of talking about the way the other side is unhealthy and doing things wrong, let's shift the discussion entirely to celebrate the things we LOVE about ourselves, whichever camp we fall into. Let's truly make this body positivity movement center on health - mental health included. A movement that centers on calling out "unhealthy behaviors" of groups we don't fall into, will only create deeper emotional problems, that no diet or physical changes can fix. And if it's true that we receive what we actively put out into the world, ask yourself - am I spreading the message of self-love and acceptance that I want to feel in my own life? If you catch yourself using negative or polarizing comparisons or language, try to shift your focus to the ways in which you shine.
3. The best solution of all - work on remembering that EVERYONE has more to offer than just their looks. We all have so many other traits and skills that make us who we truly are. We have to stop perpetuating stereotypes - on BOTH sides. If we want to see a genuine shift in the cultural perception of beauty and the way we value ourselves and others, it starts small, with each and every one of us doing our part to change the conversation and living our values.
Let's all work on loving ourselves AND each other. We are stronger and better when we work together. Love to you ALL!
WARNING: While I'm all for hearing out other opinions, hateful comments will be removed from this post. We are trying to foster positive body image and confidence, and cultivate positive energy here, so anything that does not contribute to this goal will not be tolerated. Thank you!