Lately, I’ve been hearing, “Your music is so calming. Why aren’t you soothed?” Honestly, if I could play the piano 24/7 and not have to make decisions about life or business, well maybe I would be. I do try! In fact, my new book Soothe follows my journey from neurotic piano player to a more soothed version of my former self. I share down-to-earth advice I got from nutritionists, personal trainers, yogis, feng shui designers, and other great experts. A lot of it actually worked for me. Hopefully, you’ll find ways to soothe your world too.
For me, music is a great form of stress relief. The time spent composing music is a great form of stress relief. I know not everyone is going to sit down at the piano and write a hit single. But, it’s not about the melodies I create. The actual process of playing the piano is the key. Even though I’ve been playing since I was 3, I still have to concentrate. Playing the piano uses the entire brain.
So, if I’m writing or practicing, my left brain is active because my thought process is logical and analytical. Once I have finished writing, the right brain kicks in for my creative interpretation. When my full attention is on the piano and music, my brain is busy and there’s no room for my mind to wander to the stuff that stresses me out.
It always seems to go back to the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol has damaging effects on the body like hypertension, depression and diminished mental function. Many studies show that listening to music reduces cortisol levels. That’s great, so keep listening.
In fact, my CD Soothe will relax you and take your mind on a peaceful vacation from stress. I’ve realized another encouraging aspect of physically putting my hands on the keys. Think of the Beach Boys song “I’m picking up Good Vibrations.” I always play an acoustic piano. The vibration of the strings and its effect on the wood and keys gently reaches the entire body.
It’s physically relaxing. Don’t take my word for it. There’s scientific proof. A 2011 report showed that physically playing the piano reduced the cortisol level significantly more than other creative activities like knitting or painting. My unbiased recommendation is this, learn or re-learn to play the piano! It may be just the relaxation practice you are looking for. So, if you happen to see me in the airport or on a plane and I’m totally relaxed while everyone else is frantically yelling or texting on their cell phones, chances are I’m sitting at the piano practicing a beautiful song – in my head.
Jim Brickman is an American pianist and songwriter whose songs have touched the lives of millions with their message of peace, hope, and love. With his Grammy nominations, gold records and SESAC “Songwriter of the Year” awards, Brickman has transformed the sound of contemporary solo piano music. His albums have sold more than seven million copies, and his enlightening concert appearances remain in high demand throughout the world. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.