Music and Nature

Context and Environment

Taking Control of What You Can

You can have 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 One

Music

Let’s start with something simple. Music.

Image featuring an artistic representation of a variation of music. Vibrant red neon tubes outlines different shapes of nstruments with a person in the center.

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, Coconut always returns him to a summer-time automobile crash the 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.

Person relaxing with their foot on a stereo as if relaxing and listening to music.

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 Two

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 fluttering 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’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 bit 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.

Music and forest bathing are our first two Happy Habit activities. Watch our encouraging 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.

Chime in with a comment on our Nature and Music video, with what you tried and from this lesson. Don't forget to leave a "like" or share it with your friends who might benefit!

...Nice, positive comments of course.