MENTAL well-being is not just about depression. It’s about finding joy in life and reasons to smile.
We all have times when that seems harder than it should, so for five Saturdays - starting last week - we will dedicate two pages to helping you find happiness this summer.
Short-lived highs like expensive holidays, big nights out or shopping sprees won’t get a mention here — those quick-fixes can cause as much harm as good.
This is all about simple, everyday pleasures. And just being happy.
PART I: Exercise.
THIS WEEK: Music.
HE was once a huge man. A former Scots Guardsman, broad-shouldered and tall.
But age had worn him out, both body and mind, and he spent most of his days sitting hunchbacked, still and mute.
Until the music started.
“And then he’d grow, like this,” Fiona Dyball, musical director at Catholic College Wodonga, unravels her body from foetal position as she speaks.
“And he’d be stomping his leg, and moving to the music, and he’d go from very hard to manage to very easy.”
Ms Dyball, a music therapist at the time now living in Yackandandah, had deliberately chosen to sing an old Scottish tune to the nursing home resident.
“You need to go back to their youth and find music connected to their long-term memory, which is often still intact when their short-term memory is damaged.”
“When the right tune or rhythm is used, pleasure is released through the body via a chemical called dopamine.”
The Scots Guardsman’s reaction is not rare. Nursing homes and hospitals across Australia employ music experts every day to help with recovery, rehabilitation and comfort.
It’s ability to evoke emotions and stimulate the mind is widely acknowledged, and not just for the ill.
A recent three-year study funded by The Song Room, a not-for-profit organisation in Australia that provides free music and arts programs for disadvantaged children, found that learning an instrument improved several psychological indicators, including resilience.
It also showed that students from low socio-economic backgrounds improved literacy skills by an average of 22 per cent when they studied music.
But you don’t have to be a student or performer to enjoy the well-being benefits of music.
In fact, all you have to do is hum.
“Singing is very healthy,” Ms Dyball says.
“Even if other people say you don’t sound very good, it can sound good to you and release positive chemicals in your body because it stimulates the sacculus in your ear.”
Ms Dyball encourages people to experiment with different genres of music.
“Everyone has a response to music, but our response to different types of music is different.
“For some people, heavy metal is what calms them down, for others it’s classical music.
“But as Bob Marley said: ‘One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain’.”