Mindfulness Techniques for Singers (and Other Creatives and Artists)

I promised you a little Easter egg. Here it comes, in the guise of an extra blog post this month…

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” Jon Kabat-Zinn

I would like to introduce you to mindfulness techniques, and how you can use them daily (no matter if you are singer or any other type of creative artist). First, I’d like to ask you a very simple question:

How do you react if something (during practice or performance, for example), doesn’t go so well?

Is your response comparably neutral (“Okay, I made a mistake, let’s have a look into it and see what I can do better next time, and how”) or negative (“Insert-expletive-of-choice, I’m never going to get this. I’m never going to get anywhere. I’m insert-next-expletive-of-choice!”).

Mindfulness can be helpful to become aware of these thought- and belief-patterns without judgment. Awareness without judgment creates more distance. Distance means realising your beliefs are just that: Beliefs. They don’t determine what you can or cannot do.

Quite simply put, the increased body- and breathing-awareness of mindfulness techniques has been linked to help with learning new skills, better attention and better working memory – all desirable outcomes for (performing) artists (there is a little reference list at the bottom of this post if you want to delve in deeper). It can also help with setting you on a path of reframing your thought-patterns and beliefs (that’s why mindfulness techniques are sometimes used in addition to cognitive-behavioural therapy, or cognitive coaching). This can be particularly helpful if you suffer from performance anxiety or creative blocks.

Instead of bombarding you with endless research (total rabbit-hole!), I would like to introduce you to the quite recent work of Anne-Marie Czajkowski and Alinka Greasley, not least because it can provide you with a practical introduction into mindfulness techniques, based on an 8-week course (the study has been published in the British Journal of Music Education). From the abstract:

This paper reports the development and implementation of a unique Mindfulness for Singers (MfS) course designed to improve singers’ vocal technique. Eight university students completed the intervention. Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) scores showed general improvement across all five facets of mindfulness. Qualitative results showed benefits of daily mindfulness exercises on breathing, micro-muscular awareness, vocal tone, text communication and problem solving. Exercises also positively affected teacher/pupil relationships, concentration and focus in lessons and practice. Teachers identified six of the eight participants in a blind controlled study indicating that vocal students at any level would benefit greatly from a mindfulness course as a holistic intervention.

While this is a pretty small sample, I personally recognise the value of the implemented interventions from own experience and that of my students. Course details and weekly practice instructions are available via the link posted for you to try.

MfS Weekly Practice | Mindfulness for Singers (MfS) | Anne-Marie Czajkowski
— Read on www.mindfulnessforsingers.co.uk/MfSWeeklyPractice.html

I would love to hear how implementing mindfulness techniques works for you. Please leave your experiences in the comments.

Happy Easter (in case you’re celebrating)!

©️ Petra Borzynski 2018

CZAJKOWSKI, A. & GREASLEY, A. (2015) Mindfulness for singers: The effects of a targeted mindfulness course on learning vocal technique. British Journal of Music Education, 32 (2)

FARB, N. A. (2013). Mindfulness meditation training alters cortical representations of interoceptive attention. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(1)

FRUZZETTI, A. E. (2009). Mindfulness and acceptance interventions in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. In K. S. Dobson (Ed.), Handbook of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

HENNELLY, S. (2011). The immediate and sustained effects of the .b mindfulness programme on adolescents’ social and emotional well-being and academic functioning. https://mindfulnessinschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Immediate-and-sustained-effects-of-dot-b.pdf

JHA, A. P. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1)

KABAT-ZINN, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation.

KABAT-ZINN, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.

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