Self-regulation. Chances are that you have heard these words multiple times, but what do they really mean?
Simply put, self-regulation is the ability to act in your best interest, by being consistent with what you truly believe in, to be able to calm yourself down or lift yourself up when you are feeling down.
All individuals have the ability and capacity to regulate their emotions and thoughts from a very young age.
In today’s world, we emphasise the need for preparation, but ignore implementing emotional skills in our children.
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, but if it is ignored, it can lead to severe problems and disorders.
A lot of chronic mental disorders have their roots in childhood experiences. These may be reduced if we instill self-regulation in our children from a very young age.
Let me explain to you how the brain responds to anxiety and how music can play a vital role in shaping and developing your child’s brain.
The amygdala is a part our brain that is the primary driving force of emotions such as hunger, fear, and survival. The prefrontal lobe cortex is responsible for executive functions like reasoning, understanding, and decision-making.
All external information goes to the amygdala first and then to the pre-cortex. When there are external stressors such as exams, deadlines, or competitions, the amygdala registers these as a threat and gets into a fight-or-flight mode and begins to work in an overdrive mode.
So, all messages are passed to our pre-frontal lobe, thereby inducing fear, stress, and anxiety.
Now, if these sensory messages went to your prefrontal cortex first, you would have been able to think about them rationally. When the brain is constantly in this overdrive mode, any small triggers may become difficult to control, thus making the child go into a frenzy.
This overdrive mode also increases blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate, and also results in a lack of oxygen supply to the brain.
So, many children who are unaware of this go into a frenzy where they may scream, punch walls, or have a meltdown. This may also lead to an increase in strength, and a need to hit or hurt someone.
It is important to understand that it is not the child’s desire to behave that way, but that it is the reaction of their brain. While some children may be too young to understand this, this is something their parents need to know. No child chooses to be anxious or stressed or react explosively. Most parents don’t understand this, and therefore they get anxious, and this becomes a vicious cycle.
This brings me to talk about how music helps manage anxiety and stress. There is a lot of research, including my own, that has concluded that as little as 15 minutes of listening to music can decrease one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.
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Music can have a calming effect on the brain, leading to a more relaxed amygdala, if you will.
And a relaxed amygdala means a smoother transition of signals to the prefrontal lobe (without fear and/or stress).
Some ways that you can make music work for you:
• Playing instruments, singing, and dancing to music distracts the brain and helps keep us calm.
• Chanting is also another useful method of relaxing because the simple melody, rhythm, and repetition are easy to analyse by the brain, thus making it relax and feel as if it is in control.
• Choose familiar music, and music that you enjoy because when you give the brain what it wants, it releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that provides pleasure, which in turn makes us feel good.
• Choose gentle music with simple melodies when you are relaxing. You can simply close your eyes, leave your body loose and let the music do its job.
• Specific breathing exercises with soft music can work wonders because the music provides a steady rhythm and the breathing exercises supply oxygen to the brain.
Our brain can form, reorganise and make new synaptic connections through neuroplasticity. Hence, it is important to create regular habits out of these wellness activities.
Remember, it takes time to form new habits. But if these are instilled in children from a young age, their ability to regulate emotions will increase and eventually improve their quality of life and productivity at work.
(Written by Samay Ajmera and Edited by Shruti Singhal)