Tune into Mindfulness through Music!
Looking for a way to have FUN with your child while teaching them mindfulness and exploring world cultures and traditions? This family-friendly activity is a fun way to experience holiday music, mindfulness, and geography with your family at home. The goal is to help your family learn mindful listening skills while enjoying holiday music from around the world. The idea is to teach kids to focus on sounds and to notice a range of detail.
Listen to the list of family-friendly holiday songs from around the world. Before each song, tell your family a bit about its origins, then ask them to pay attention to the mindful moment listed with the song.
This is a beautiful Yoruba Christmas Carol entitled “Betelehemu” sung by the African Children’s Choir from Nigeria.
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Notice when you feel uplifted by the music. Pay attention to that feeling. What is it like? Discuss that feeling after the song is over.
“Kujichagulia” is one of the principles of Kwanzaa, particularly of the second day. It means “self-determination.”
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Pay close attention to the lyrics in this song. After the song is over, see if you can explain what “Kujichagulia” means, in your own words.
“Mi Burrito Sabanero”
This South American song refers to a little donkey “burrito” on its way to Bethlehem.
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Don’t be afraid to dance to this awesome song! Every time you hear the singer say “tuqui, tuqui, tuqui, tuqui,” sing along!
“Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah”
This is a famous song about celebrating Hanukkah. Listen to the words to learn more about how this Jewish holiday is celebrated!
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Give a “thumbs up” every time you hear the word “Hanukkah.”
The word “tannenbaum” means Christmas tree in German. This song was originally a traditional folk song that became associated with a Christmas tree and today is sung as a Christmas carol.
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Did you feel calm while the song was playing? Pay attention to that feeling. What is it like to feel calm? Discuss that feeling after the song is over. What song do you know that reminds you of this song?
“Snow Candy” by Starship Planet
This is a K-pop song, which is a genre of pop music that comes from South Korea and has become very popular.
MINDFULNESS MOMENT WHILE YOU LISTEN: Maybe you don’t understand the lyrics of this song, but pay attention to them anyway. How does this song make you feel? After the music ends, discuss that feeling with your family.
When you are done listening to music, ask your children if it was easy to stay focused. Were they able to bring their attention back to the music if their minds wandered? Were they able to notice whatever it was you chose to have them pay attention to?
We hope your family will enjoy this fun activity!
This great article from GoodTherapy’s Maya Benattar, MA, MT-BC, LCAT discusses ways you, as a parent or caregiver, can use music as a mindfulness strategy.
If you find mindfulness challenging (or haven’t tried it!), the addition of music can help you stay focused, while simultaneously helping you to connect with music as a source of strength and creative energy. Music can be a powerful way to experience the present moment.
Take a moment to think about the music in your life. Do you listen to music regularly? Is it live music? Recorded music? What kind of music moves you? Helps you relax? Energizes you? Do you play an instrument or sing? What music do you hear around you (perhaps music your kids or partner listen to)?
Now think about your relationship with music for a moment. Is it a source of frustration or a joy? Do you feel disconnected from music sometimes? Does music soothe you when nothing else seems to work? Do you have a lot of music on your phone but never listen to it?
Whether you listen to music all the time or rarely, mindful music listening can help you slow down and be in the moment. Here’s how:
- Choose a piece of music to listen to. I usually use instrumental pieces, as lyrics can add a whole extra layer, but it’s up to you. It can either be a familiar or unfamiliar piece (it’s interesting to repeat this exercise with the opposite of what you choose this time, just to notice if anything feels different).
- Take a moment to breathe and ground yourself—no matter where you are, or what’s going on around you. Inhale gently through your nose, and exhale deeply through your open lips. Notice your body, and tune into how it feels, whether you’re standing, sitting, walking, or laying down. Just notice any physical structures your body is touching (the floor, the chair, or your shoes) as well as any physical sensations (tightness, tension) in your body.
- Just listen. Use headphones or earbuds if that helps you focus or shut out external noise. Give yourself permission to only listen to the music, without simultaneously checking your email or refreshing your Facebook feed. If it helps, close your eyes (if that’s challenging, it’s likely because you really need the break!).
- Notice. Let yourself be aware of anything you notice, without judgment or self-criticism. Notice the pace of the music, the sounds of the different instruments, or the shifts in volume. Notice if you’re more aware of a certain part of your body as you listen (i.e., “I often feel vibrations of cello music in my chest”). Notice any thoughts or feelings that come up—perhaps the music is connected to a memory, or perhaps an anxious thought is trying to pop through. Let any thoughts just pass through your awareness, and then gently bring yourself back to the sounds of the music.
- Reflect. Take a moment to breathe and check in with your body, breath, and mind (see step 2). Does anything feel different? Do you notice any shifts after listening to the piece of music? Do you feel calmer? If the piece you chose didn’t feel like a good fit, what might you look for in another piece (i.e., slower, fewer instruments, louder)?
This short mindfulness experience can be a useful thing to practice daily, much like meditating. You might experiment with different types of music as a way to notice different responses. You may also find that repeating the same piece of music is a sort of touchstone, a way to continually reconnect to that place inside where gentle pausing and noticing can happen with ease.