Sunday, May 16, 2010

Right Brain, Left Brain

In a way, music can act like an insurance policy for your brain.  Considering that the left side of the brain does more of our computing, memory and logic; and our right side of the brain is more creative, thoughtful and emotional (musical!).  When there is damage to the left side of the brain (due to things like normal aging, stroke, alzheimer's, and possibly a bad teenage attitude), we can often tap into the left side through the right side with the use of music.

Parents and teachers alike have known forever that kids learn and remember better when learning is set to music.  Their left side of the brain will work on remembering whatever subject is being taught.  The right side of the brain will master the music AND remember the lyrics, and any thoughts or feelings associated with the music.   By combining teaching with music, the child now has two memory centers in the brain to draw information from. The music not only makes the learning more fun and interesting, but it makes recall quicker and easier.  Thus building confidence in the child, which will lead to better learning in the future as well.

You never know, the right song played at the right time just might remind your husband how crazy he is about you!  Or remind your teenager that he/she really does have a testimony.  It could bring back memories of your child's favorite family vacation, and how much fun it is to be a part of your family.  One thing I do know is, if you don't use music, it absolutely won't do any of these things.  

Your home, heart, and brain must be full of music.  FHE and car rides should be filled with songs that strengthen testimony, build relationships, and invite fun.  Music WILL remind us how we felt during a certain experience or time of life.  Give your family a soundtrack to their memories, so they can listen and always remember how you touched their life.

I would dare say that the typical American family today sings much less than families of other cultures.  Remember that the main goal of music isn't a perfect performance.  (It is if you are a professional musician, and if you are, great!)  But music is meant to be enjoyed by all people, despite ability.  In home and church use, music is for your personal benefit, not to benefit an audience.  Just a generation or two ago, families still seemed to use music much more than they do today.  

So, like I mentioned above, if you have older family members who are struggling with left brain problems, give them the gift of music.  Many dementia/alzheimer patients who have lost their ability to speak, can still sing.  But they usually don't start singing on their own.  You need to be there, singing with them, and singing songs that are familiar to them.  (Once they get going, they may start singing songs without prompts though.)  

I remember visiting my great grandma when I was around 10 to 12 years old.  Her mind was deteriorating, and visits to her usually consisted of us all sitting around her and talking around her.  It was Christmas, so my sister and I decided to sing her a Christmas carol.  Several minutes later we suddenly heard grandma sing "JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS!".  We cheered when she finished, and then enjoyed about 30 more minutes of her concert.  I couldn't remember ever hearing her voice before, or seeing that sparkle in her eye before.  And like I stated above, I don't remember all the songs she sang that day... but I sure do remember how I felt.  I am sure that we only had a small glimpse of what she was experiencing, as music opened up old pathways of her mind that had been closed for years.

I was blessed to marry into a musical family, with an abundance of old sheet music.  If you are looking for that old song that your family used to sing, let me know.  I'd love to try and find it for you!