Internationally renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Galina Mindlin talks with the Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about music’s effect on the brain and how creating playlists of specific songs and listening to them on your iPod, MP3 player or cell phone can benefit your overall health and productivity.
Who isn’t stressed these days? Whether it’s the economy, the dread of tax season or simply juggling day-to-day work obligations, life gets overwhelming. In her new book, Your Playlist Can Change Your Life (co-written with Don Durousseau, M.B.A., and Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D.) Galina Mindlin, M.D., Ph.D., tells readers how they can use their favorite music to not only fend off stress but to also enhance mental alertness and organization. She says it can even help ease insomnia.
Opportunist: Everyone knows music can make you happy or sad, but can it really do more than that?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Yes. We see more scientific evidence to document the profound influence of music on our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. In fact, the rhythms in our brain are organized by the same principles as music.
Like scent, music has an instant neurological pathway that circumvents your thinking brain and directly affects your emotional state. Brainwaves can create different mind states or frequencies. For instance, when the mind is tired, it slows down. Musical beats can help revive the mind. Brainwaves can also be turned into musical notes using a computer algorithm.
Opportunist: Your book mentions that musical processes engaged in the womb affect you for the rest of your life. How so?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: The frequency of life starts with a beat. The first sounds we hear in the womb are our mother’s heartbeat and the vibrations of water. There are frequencies that are ingrained in your brain. While you’re growing up you can upgrade those frequencies and create your own playlist.
I spent a lot of my childhood summers along the Baltic Sea. Hours of watching and listening to those ocean waves are ingrained in my mind. You could train your mind in "inviting" those rhythmical frequencies of the oceans waves when you feel stressed out or just need to calm yourself down.
Opportunist: What inspired you to write this book?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Ironically, it came from doing Brain Music Therapy. Since that became successful and people started using it, I thought how can we compliment the technology with the musical pieces that people listen to in their everyday lives? I wanted to make that knowledge available to everybody—especially those who cannot afford Brain Music Therapy. I wanted to help more people get benefits from something they already love: music. We also wondered how we could use music more interpretively for insomnia, stress relief and anxiety and mood enhancement and peak performance. We believed music could be used more effectively to relieve emotional pain or help people deal with the changes that occur in everyday life. When you find a piece of music that makes you feel a certain way, you can put it on your iPod and train your brain to ingrain those sequences. Also, we created a common BMT file, which was done on the basis of 5,000 BMT recordings and could be used as a first help before people can get their own BMT files.
Opportunist: Do you come from a musical background?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Yes, I do. I graduated from music school and was taking dance classes. My mom always would sing songs for me. When she was a child she would sing solos in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow so, I was around music for many years and my brain was introduced to many different musical frequencies.
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Businesspeople tend to have very busy brains. [Laughs] They spend much of their day multitasking, which requires a high level of mental alertness. If they’re stressed about a presentation or a meeting with their manager, it’s even harder to slow their thought patterns down. Certain pieces of music can bring them into their desired state of mind and enhance performance and concentration. We are giving specific tips on how you can use BPM to bring your mind into an optimal set. That is what business folks need the most period.
Opportunist: Your book provides sample playlists, to help readers achieve a desired state of mind. Can the right playlist actually give the listener a pick-me-up similar to a cup of coffee or an energy drink?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Yes. Using beats-per-minute, you can create your optimal mindset. You can also enhance your concentration. I have found that I function best and can bring my concentration level up when I listen to a song that is about 115 to 120 beats-per-minute. It enhances my mood and brings me to a more upbeat state. Once you determine which songs enhance your energy level, you can play them for about 10 to 15 minutes before the task you must accomplish. The more beats-per-minutes, the more energized you can become. You can enhance your mood and get yourself in a better shape in the gym by listening to music. People work out to train their muscles, but they shouldn’t forget about their brains. They can train their brain the way they can their muscles.
Opportunist: What kind of playlist would help those who suffer from insomnia?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: You can unwind by listening to relaxing music and practicing visual imagery and visually taking yourself to the beach, for example, to create a calmer space. Music affects the whole brain. You can listen to music with your ears and see the music if you close your eyes. Scented candles can also enhance the musical effect and take the brain into a state of complete relaxation or meditation.
Opportunist: In your book, you mention your early childhood in the North Pole. How did that experience affect you?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: All those white nights are etched in my brain. It’s the sound of white noise, which I call the silent music of eternity. It’s powerful and it still calms me. I often turn off all the sounds in my brain, even for just a few moments, and it brings me back to my calm state and maximum focus. Then I go to my playlist and pick the best music to enhance whatever task I am about to pursue. You can find the tunes that match your state of calmness and mindfulness by trying different variations of your playlists.
Opportunist: We understand you are the founder of Brain Music Therapy in the United States. Please tell us about that.
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Brain Music Therapy (BMT) is a form of neurofeedback that is based upon fast and slow rhythms. An effective, scientifically proven treatment for stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, it has also been found to increase productivity and concentration.
Opportunist: How does it work?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: It records an individual’s brain waves and, using a computer algorithm, converts them into unique musical sounds. It’s your own soundtrack. What your brain plays. These musical sounds correlate to brain waves that promote relaxation or trigger activation in your body. We place them on a CD with two musical files—one for relaxing, and one for activating. Playing those tunes promotes relaxation and activation in your body. People can download the files on their iPod and play them to get their desired state of mind. When anxious, they can play the relaxation file to train their brain to relax. When tired and low energy, they can play the activation file to achieve a state of high alertness.
Opportunist: What does brain music sound like?
Dr. Galina Mindlin: Classical music. We created a common file from the brainwave recordings of more than 5,000 people worldwide. It’s a combination of activating fast waves and slow, relaxing ones. Everybody can download the common file, which is available for those who might want to try it out before coming into the office to get their own brain waves recorded. That will help you in the mean while to get into your optimal mindset where you have an opportunity to create your own BMT file.
Dr. Mindlin is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is the supervising attending physician in the Department of Psychiatry at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center. Board certified in psychiatry and neurology, she holds a Ph.D. in neurophysiology and neuropsychology. She is also one of the founders of Brain Music Treatment in the United States.
Dr. Mindlin is available for workshops and speaking engagements on a variety of topics, including how to enhance productivity and achieve your best peak performance, effectively managing the stress and anxiety at your work place.
Brain Music Treatment - www.brainmusictreatment.com
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in the Orlando area.