Improve your wellbeing with music during lockdown


Dr Ruth Herbert, a music psychology expert and director of research at CMAT, provides her advice on how music can help improve your wellbeing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

‘Over just a few weeks COVID-19 has had a profound impact upon the way we’re able to live our lives. One of the most frustrating and anxiety-provoking features is the restriction of previously taken for granted civil liberties – from being able to travel freely (in the UK and abroad), to meeting friends for a drink, attending public events (concerts or the theatre) or simply going to the gym. Free choice – at least for now – seems a distant dream, with implications for our personal wellbeing. In uncertain times, music provides a powerful tool for temporarily escaping lockdown, providing psychological and physiological support, giving us back a sense of control.’

Ruth’s top five tips are:

  1. Experiment with including your favourite music (or tracks from online playlists) as part of a relaxation or meditation routine, or simply to provide a space to cut off and just ‘be’. Listening to slow, quiet music with a low rate of change can increase activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing heart rate and inducing a state of calmness.
  1. Bypass travel restrictions and engage in some virtual journeying, courtesy of your music collection and imagination (no screen-time required). Music provides a powerful anchor to associations and memories, including vivid recollection of specific places and positive events.
  1. Use music to pace the day, structuring daily routines, providing motivation to complete mundane tasks and energising cardio workouts, whether a private aerobics session or a 5K run. Cross-culturally, humans demonstrate the capacity to move to rhythmic sounds and music can replace one perceived time frame with another.
  1. Escape isolation, get social and connect with others through some virtual music-making. Social media channels offer an expanding range of virtual ensemble opportunities, including the University of Kent’s own Virtual Music Project.
  1. Take up an instrument you’ve always been meaning to learn, or rediscover an instrument you used to play. There’s a wealth of online tuition resources available for self-study, plus many top-rated musicians are currently offering remote lessons. A regular focus on developing a new skill can provide a space for mental freedom where worries and concerns are temporarily set aside.

This article originally appeared on the Kent News Centre: