Tag Archives: music

Happy Habits for Hard Times

Smoothies

Being that we’ve been hanging out together (aka sheltering in place), Rita and I are teaming up to offer a series of videos with accompanying written materials and activities. We’re calling these videos and resources the “Happy Habits Series.”

We’ve written these materials and produced these videos with COVID-19 in mind, but please know that we know there are lots of other excellent resources available for coping with COVID-19. By no means do we have a corner on the market on how to be happy and healthy, nor do we think that what we’re offering is particularly special.

You might be wondering, “So, why are Rita and John doing this?” For the answer, go back to the first sentence, and then combine that sentence with the fact that we’re not sure what else we can do to be helpful (other than washing our hands, practicing social distancing, and sheltering in place).

And now, a word from our sponsor: The Happy Habits Series is a production of the University of Montana College of Education and Rita and John S-F.

Here’s installment #1. For the accompanying corny video, click here.

Two Habits that Involve Taking Control of What You Can

You can control many components of the physical space around you—things outside yourself, but within your control. You can change visuals, sounds, smells, temperatures; you can even move locations. If you’re like most of us, you know you can proactively make these changes, but sometimes, you forget. Here are a couple of reminders.

Happy Habit # 1

Using Music

Let’s start with something simple. Music. You can pump an upbeat song into your headphones or in the airwaves around you. Music triggers emotions and memories. Sometimes our emotional responses are all about the music itself. Other times they’re about personal associations or memories. For example, when Grandpa Pancake listens to We are the Champions by Queen, he’s transported back to positive college football memories, whereas the song, “Put the Lime in the Coconut” always returns him to a summertime automobile crash he experienced with his sister. You can probably guess why.

For Bossy Pants, the Simon and Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is the most reassuring tune ever, though also quite nostalgic. She also plays Eva Cassidy for hours on end. Whether mood-altering or memory-inducing, music is a powerful tool in the toolbox for living well. In fact, researchers report that engaging in musical and dance activities are associated with increased subjective well-being.

Give this a try:

  1. Select a song that triggers positive emotions for you. If you really feel like picking one that makes you cry instead, that’s okay. Emoting either direction is helpful, but we’re all about focusing on what you can do to elevate your mood right now.
  2. Listen to the song at least two or three times and just let the song do its work. Sing along or dance a little. Or both.
  3. Pay attention to memories and positive feelings. Smile. Tear up. React in whatever ways feel natural. Welcome your emotions.
  4. Play it again or move on to another favorite. Maybe even play something new. You’re building resilience for the rest of the day. If you find yourself humming your song in a Zoom meeting or while doing the dishes, so much the better.
  5. And though this suggestion belongs in a later Happy Habit, send a mental thank you out to the musicians and all the people involved in bringing those tunes to your ears.

Happy Habit # 2

Forest Bathing

Music is one method for altering your outer environment. Now let’s move on to something physical: Forest bathing. Yes, forest bathing brings to mind naked nymphs flittering around a crystal pond or, for some of us, skinny dipping in Seeley Lake. In Montana, beautiful outdoor scenes are everywhere. If you’re lucky enough to be able to do social distancing by immersing yourself in some naturally awesome surroundings, do it. But even if you can’t get out to the perfect spot, we encourage you to try this. Here’s the scoop:

In 2018, happiness researcher Dr. Qing Li wrote a book called Forest Bathing which includes this guidance:

In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.

This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”

First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.

The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. You have crossed the bridge to happiness.”

Japan is a tad more crowded than Montana. If they can manage forest bathing there, we have no excuse. Dr. Li is an impressive researcher. Forest bathing can be a great habit to establish and maintain. To watch a forest bathing video from CBS News, click here.

Music and forest bathing are the first two Happy Habit activities in our Happy Habit Series. If you’re interested, you can watch our encouraging (and home-made) video, try these assignments, and pay attention if they work for you. Have an open and observant attitude. Nothing works for everyone, but these are well-researched strategies. Feel free to chime in with a blog comment or two. Nice, positive comments of course.

Once again, here’s the link to the video: https://studio.youtube.com/video/KPw7KncPQXc/edit

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re finding just the right balance of social distance and social connection.

Feminist Culture in Music

This afternoon I’m doing a guest lecture for Sidney Shaw on Feminist Theory and Therapy. In honor of this, I’m posting an excerpt from our “Study Guide” for Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice. Here you go:

Most dominant cultural media is clearly NOT feminist. A quick perusal of movie trailers (which generally include men with guns and women quickly undressing because they’re so darn aroused by men with guns) or popular music filtering into the ears of our youth will affirm this not-so-radical-reality.

For this activity we were interested in music, films, and books that ARE feminist in orientation and so we conducted a non-random survey of participants on counseling and psychology listservs and online blogs. We simply asked: Please share your recommendations for first, second, and third wave feminist songs, films, and books (and then did a few online searches). Interestingly, the most significant finding was that listserv respondents clearly had a much stronger passion for music than anything else. We received only one book recommendation and one film recommendation. In contrast, we got flooded by song recommendations. Consequently, we decided to focus our survey specifically on songs and will leave the books and films for another project.

Before we get to our non-comprehensive and nonrandom feminist song list, we should briefly discuss the three waves of feminism . . . despite the fact that doing so may raise issues and stimulate debate. No doubt, individuals who experienced or are knowledgeable about each wave may take issue with the distinctions offered below. Nevertheless, here’ son look (Susan Pharr, 1997) at the evolution of feminism:

We are examining sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, ageism, ableism, and imperialism, and we see everything as connected. This change in point of view represents the third wave of the women’s liberation movement, a new direction that does not get mass media coverage and recognition. It has been initiated by women of color and lesbians who were marginalized or rendered invisible by the white heterosexual leaders of earlier efforts. The first wave was the 19th and early 20th century campaign for the vote; the second, beginning in the 1960s, focused     on the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights. Consisting of predominantly white middleclass women, both failed in recognizing issues of equality and empowerment for all women. The third wave of the movement, multi-racial and multi-issued, seeks      the transformation of the world for us all. (p.26)

If we go with Pharr’s distinctions, we would broadly categorize first, second, and third wave feminism as:

 

  1. Campaign for the vote
  2. The ERA and abortion rights
  3. Multi-racial, multi-issued world transformation

 

What’s problematic about this categorization is that it’s too darn simplistic. The vote, ERA, and abortion rights were key or central issues, but first and second wave feminists we know would take issue with the narrowness of this depiction and would rightly point to first and second wave feminist efforts at including—not marginalizing—minority groups.

With this in mind, although we initially anticipated creating a nuanced and organized Table with books, films, and songs tightly organized by their connection with a particular “feminist wave” we’ve now decided to make a less organized list of feminist-oriented songs that have inspired individual women and men. And while the less organized list is perhaps less satisfying to our more compulsive sides, it also provides freedom for you as a reader to listen to the music, appreciate or explore the various messages, and then categorize or refuse to categorize the songs based on your preference. In the end, we found ourselves a little surprised to find that this less categorical, more dimensional, and more personal approach feels more consistent with feminist ideals . . . ideals that focus on the personal as political and that assert that authority figures should resist the impulse to tell others what and how to think.

As you read through these recommendations we suggest you think about what songs hold meaning for you and why. Along with many of the recommendations listed, we also received explanations for why the particular song was meaningful—in a feminist way. There’s always space in any list for additions and subtractions and your personal additions and subtractions might help you create an inspiring feminist playlist for yourself.

One final caveat: When we searched online for top feminist songs and anthems, we came across the occasional angry blog or posting demonizing the feminist perspective. We found this a little creepy and a little fascinating. One example was a comment (we’re paraphrasing now) about the heathen feminists . . . who sing into microphones and sound systems all of which were ‘invented’ by men. We include this comment primarily to emphasize that, in fact, you also may find yourself having strong emotional reactions to the music or the lyrics or the preceding comment. If your reactions are especially strong, we recommend you conduct a feminist power analysis and/or have a discussion about your reactions with someone you trust (and who has a balanced feminist perspective).

 

Table 10.1: A List of Feminist Songs that Counselors and Psychotherapists have Found Inspiring

 

18 Wheeler – Pink

A Sorta Fairytale – Tori Amos

Alien She – Bikini Kill

All American Girl – Melissa Etheridge

Ampersand – Amanda Palmer

Androgynous – Joan Jett

Be a Man – Courtney Love

Beautiful Flower – India Arie

Beautiful Liar – Beyonce and Shakira

Been a Son – Nirvana

Black Girl Pain – Jean Grae and Talib Kweli

Butyric Acid – Consolidated

Can’t Hold Us Down – Christina Aguilera

Cornflake – Tori Amos

Crucify – Tori Amos

Daughter – Pearl Jam

Double Dare Ya – Bikini Kill

Express Yourself – Madman

Fixing her Hair – Ani Difranco

Glass Ceiling – Metric

God – Tori Amos

Gonna Be an Engineer – Peggy Seeger

Goodbye Earl – The Dixie Chicks

He Thinks He’ll Keep Her – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Hey Cinderella – Suzy Bogguss

Human Nature – Madonna

I am Woman – Helen Reddy

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

I’m a Bitch – Meredith Brooks

I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan or Whitney Houston

It’s a She Thing – Salt and Peppa

Just a Girl – No Doubt

Man! I Feel Like a Woman – Shania Twain

Me and a gun – Tori Amos

My Old Man – Joni Mitchell

No More Tears – Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer

Not a Pretty Girl – Ani Difranco

Not Ready to Make Nice – The Dixie Chicks

One of the Boys – Katy Perry

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Pretty Girls – Neko Case

Professional Window – Tori Amos

Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado

Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill

Respect – Aretha Franklin

Silent All these Years – Tori Amos

Sisters are Do – Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox

Sisters are Doing It for Themselves – Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics

Spark – Tori Amos

Stronger – Britney Spears

Stupid Girls – Pink

Superwoman – Alicia Keys

Swan Dive – Ani DiFranco

The Pill – Loretta Lynn

This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

Why Go – Pearl Jam

Woman in the Moon – Barbra Streisand

Women Should be a Priority – Sweet Honey and the Rock

You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore

You Oughta Know – Alanis Morisette

Your Revolution – Sidebar