Being grateful doesn’t just help your playing; it can bring you less stress and better health as well. According to psychology professor Robert Emmons, “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.” In addition to being less stressed, grateful people also tend to be more optimistic, a trait that has been shown to boost the immune system. For musicians, less stress and better health can lead to stronger, more confident performances, less worry about bad playing days, and more productive practice. So how can you reap all these wonderful benefits? Bringing more gratitude into your life is as simple as shifting your perspective. Here are five easy ways that you can be thankful for the way you play.
1. Be thankful for your progress.
Look back in your book and play a song that you did several months ago. Remember when it was hard to play? Now it’s easier...because you kept on practicing and working hard! Take a minute to smile and enjoy the things you’ve accomplished so far!
2. Be on the lookout for little things to celebrate.
Major progress isn’t the only thing you can be grateful for. If you nail that tricky spot in measure 5, that’s something to celebrate and be thankful for. If you play a gorgeous note, take a second and express your excitment!
3. Give thanks for your body and mind.
As musicians, we ask the tiniest muscles in our body to do very complex, precise things, and we train our brains to be able to juggle a number of processes at once. Think for a minute about how wonderful it is that your body and mind can do these things, like buzzing your lips to create exact pitches, playing different rhythms with each of your arms and legs, and reading music with ease. Reflect on how cool it is that we can train our bodies and minds to make beautiful music.
4. Turn a bad day around–appreciate your losses.
Nobody likes having a rotten playing day, but even bad days offer things to be grateful for. If you get some feedback in band that you don’t like, you can turn it around and be thankful that you can use that feedback to grow. If you’re having a bad playing day, be thankful that this isn’t how you sound on a good day! Often, when we find something to be thankful for, we can see humor in a bad situation, and even learn from it so we can do better next time.
5. Be grateful you’re a musician!
Musicians are unlike any other kind of people. We have the ability to tell stories and express the deepest, most powerful emotions in a way that words cannot. As a musician, you share a common bond with great artists throughout history, from the ancient drummers of Africa to Mozart to Alicia Keys. Few people have the discipline and dedication to be musicians–and you DO!
When you practice appreciating your musical abilities, you may find that progress comes more quickly and playing becomes more fun. Think of something you appreciate today–it’ll help you enjoy the way you play!