From the ears of Introverts: How sound and music can influence your energy

This article first appeared in issue 2 of The Introvert Effect Magazine https://theintroverteffect.com/free-introvert-magazine/

As a sensitive, introverted type of soul – you might have noticed a thing or two about sounds and music. You might be aware of sounds and music that get your attention, what drives you crazy (don’t you dare tap your fingers on a table near me!), what drains you, what gives you a headache, what energises you and what helps you feel a sense of peace. Getting to know and understand your sound and music sensitivities, preferences and stressors is a helpful, practical and fun way to boost your physical and emotional well-being and productivity. You can create your own toolkit of music and strategies to help you thrive in different environments and conditions.

Listening to music can have a profound impact on our bodies and energy. Research has shown that music can affect our heart rate, increase oxygen flow, influence cortisol (stress hormone) levels, motivate for increased physical movement, maximise concentration and promote sleep. The most important thing when you are choosing music to boost wellbeing – make sure you like it. There’s no need to overcomplicate things by worrying about beats per minute for a relaxing song – consider, do I like it? Does it make me feel relaxed? Listen closely, consciously and with intent. Get to know the music. What is more powerful than listening to music? Singing. You don’t have to get up on stage, but even a few minutes in the shower can be an easy way to relax, or ramp up your energy with a more upbeat song.

For those of us that identify as sensitive and introverted, auditory stimulation that we did not choose and do not have control over can feel irritating, distracting, draining and overwhelming. For example, passengers having noisy mobile phone conversations near us on public transport can set our teeth on edge. Working in an open plan office can be distracting – and it’s not always possible or appropriate to tune out with headphones. And if you have young children like me, well…they do say that children are sent to teach us!

If you know you are going to be exposed to an overwhelmingly noisy environment – schedule in time later where you can recover. Visit a garden and listen to the birds, lie down in silence, listen to music of your choice in the bath or aim for an earlier night’s sleep. Sometimes silence is a long way off in my busy day, so I counter this by listening to a favourite song that re-energises me. (Even though it’s more sound, it’s sound that I love and that I choose – somehow it magically re-sets me).

Photo by  Eric Nopanen  on  Unsplash

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Create Your Music + Sound Kit

It’s so easy with Spotify and YouTube to find songs and music – I’d love to invite you to spend some time exploring and creating your own kit.

Here are some prompts – why not go and find a song to fit? I’ve shared some of my favourites.

For focus and clarity: Bach Cello Suite No. 1 – Yo Yo Ma (lots of structure, one instrument, beautiful – this helps me think and feel peaceful – I listen to it before facilitating a coaching session).

For confidence: Consider a song that makes you feel strong, sure and empowered. Think about the lyrics and the energy combined. My favourite is #41 by Dave Matthews Band (“I will go in this way and find my own way out” are lyrics that resonate with me).

For relaxation: Typically music that is slower tempo and doesn’t jump around a lot in the melody is relaxing – however this is personal, so if Metallica relaxes you – then you know what to do. I like Loreena McKennitt’s album Nights from the Ahlambra.

For release of pent up emotion (frustration, anger): Something that matches your energy is a good choice – think faster tempo, louder volume, drums, guitar...I tend to choose songs I can really ‘belt’ out and tend toward songs from the guitar bands of the 90s (showing my vintage here!).

For writing/working: If it has lyrics then I can get more easily distracted. On Spotify, I have a favourite playlist of acoustic guitar unfamiliar songs (if they were known songs, I’d be singing instead of typing). It’s called Acoustic Concentration (the one with 450k followers).

For celebration: What songs makes you feel joyful? Consider what songs evoke beautiful and happy memories from past celebrations you can revive, and lean into those feelings again. My personal pick is “These Days” by Powderfinger.

There are endless ways that music can help serve you in managing your energy as an introvert. Be conscious and intentional of how you listen, where you listen, why you listen and what you choose. We can’t always control the stimulation that comes at our ears in this busy world, but we can always find ways to retreat and to come back to ourselves with music.

© Naomi Morrow, 2017.

7 Steps to Self Trust

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, I listened to Australian Swimming Commentator Giaan Rooney call the 4x100 Women’s Freestyle Relay. After the race, she made a comment about the trust that each of these athletes has to place in their teammates to always do their best.

Trust is an essential part of living a full life. Whether it’s at work, in family relationships, partnerships, engaging in creativity, starting up a new business, returning to study…invariably we are faced with situations that require us to trust others, and to trust ourselves.

Any undertaking that is worthwhile and important asks us to consider how we might trust more freely and readily. Trust is linked with courage, confidence, experimentation and risk. All necessary elements for leading creative, fulfilling and rich lives.

As a women’s life and creativity coach, I observe how many of us struggle to deeply trust ourselves.

How is it that we too frequently dismiss our initial gut reactions, downplay our own needs, experience turmoil in making decisions – that if we listened a little more closely to ourselves, to really tune into what our heart/gut/intuition is telling us and to know that it is OK to step into a place of greater self-trust. If things don’t work out as planned, then to know it’s not permanent and that things and ideas can be changed. That a change in direction can be viewed as interesting and with curiosity, rather than a setback or situation for concern.

Image: Georgie James Photography

Image: Georgie James Photography

Do you trust yourself that you are doing the very best you can, right now, with all you have and all you know now?

Do you truly believe that you can always do things differently later, if you need to, if you want to, if you have further information?

What stops us from trusting ourselves more?

Over-reliance on information and stories from the past.

Yes, we can always learn from past experiences and situations. But, when we look at the past, we have a lens that filters that information, or even distorts it completely. This means we are looking at that past event with different eyes, different emotions and different thoughts and beliefs. So it is impossible to interpret it now, as we did then. And nor should we, as because we now see things in altered way – it is a sign of growth, learning and new perspectives.

This means that we should not solely rely on past information to form an accurate and helpful position on how much and why we need to trust ourselves and our potential.

Preoccupation with trying to predict the future.

When we spend too much time trying to predict and control the future, we are not present and attentive. This can lead to increased anxiety and avoidance – which minimises our opportunities to experience a rich, full and meaningful life.

What can we do to trust ourselves more?

1.     Get comfortable with making mistakes.

2.     Get comfortable with being ‘wrong.’

3.     Get comfortable with appearing foolish, silly and imperfect.

4.     Celebrate when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, extend ourselves and grow.

5.     Forgive ourselves for past mistakes or perceived failures.

6.     Get our heads out of the past and into the now.

7.     Learn to be still and quiet. Resist temptation to be constantly ‘busy’ or ‘distracted’ – intuition can’t be heard above the noise and inattention.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.

Rob Bell Wake Up Project Event: My top 5 Take-Away Messages

Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Rob Bell and his work – but after I’d heard Elizabeth Gilbert refer to him as a “most inspiring spiritual leader” I was intrigued.

It was a clear winter day in Melbourne when Rob Bell spoke about all the big things: life, spirituality, love, suffering, creativity and mindfulness.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Listening to Rob speak, I felt more sure of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Yet for every time I thought YES, I now understand X or Y about me – there raised another three questions. That’s what happens when you go a bit deeper on yourself.

I filled half a notebook with AHA moments, phrases, snapshots of stories, wisdom + reminders. I can’t relay it all here, but if his work calls you – please check out his latest book How to Be Here.

1.     What can you create from EVEN this?

When we talk about life, living and relating to others – and finding our way in the world, we soon come to learn about suffering. When in the midst of suffering, whether it’s experiencing loss, illness, despair, pain – Bell suggests that we can always ask “I wonder what could be created out of even this?”

What new thing, action, belief, connections or presence could we consciously choose to adopt as a new creation out of our suffering?

This isn’t about looking for reasons why we suffer, but about finding ways to acknowledge that suffering presents us with an opportunity to know ourselves and our world in a new way. Could we choose to consciously become softer, more self-compassionate, more empathetic? Could we create new connections and reach out to others experiencing similar circumstances? Could we create a new path through life that acknowledges and transcends, rather than vainly tries to deny our experience?

Consider how many support groups and fundraising charities have been founded by someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. What can be created from even this?

As I listened to this message, it was impossible for me not to be thinking about the death of my mother last year. Every day following this loss, I consciously ask “How can I live wholeheartedly right now? How can I express my truth fully? How can I be my boldest self? How can I show love?”

Consciously create your life – pain and all.

2.     Is your ladder against the right building?

From a young age, we intuitively learn about ladders. We learn: study hard at school = get good grades. Get good grades = get into a good university. Get good grades = get a good job. Work hard = get a promotion. Work harder = get the corner office. And so on. All the ladders are there, waiting for us to climb up. We learn: keep striving, keep going up.

Rarely do we stop to ask “Is my ladder leaned up against the right building?”

Is this what I want? Many people get right to the top, achieve incredible success and wealth, but never have asked the deeper questions. Who am I? What will my life be about?

Some of us get really good at climbing ladders.

Is the endless striving and materialism fulfilling you?

Bell said “People make all kinds of radical choices to live the life that means the most to them.” They might choose to live frugally most of the year in order to travel extensively, or to sacrifice a certain level of income to maximise time with family or on a creative outlet.

Making a change and moving ‘down’ from the ego is a disruption of sorts. Moving toward greater vitality and health can challenge the assumptions of your society, tribe, family and/or workplace. The centre of consciousness has a message “This is how we do things” but you can make a disruption by saying “This is not my path.”

Ah. Being a disrupter. How does that sound? Waking up to what is possible and most meaningful for you. Do things your way. It’s certainly not going to be easy, because it will likely generate ripples of dissonance, but living in a way that’s not true for you won’t be a picnic either. What will you choose?

3.     What is that to you?

Ever notice yourself becoming too focused on what others are doing?

Wasting your energy comparing your parenting, business success, perceived wealth, physical appearance, accolades etc to other people?

Who you aren’t, isn’t interesting. (“I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough”)

Who they are, isn’t interesting. (“They are smarter, They are more successful”).

The time and energy you spend in this space takes you away from your capacity to live a rich, full and meaningful life. You are in control of how and where you expend your energy.

Decide now that you will not compare what you DO know about yourself with what you DON’T know about someone else.” – Rob Bell.

Ooh. Tough one but I’m going to try. I’ve already had my husband on to this for me, replying “What is that to you?” when I’ve been too focused on how I think someone should have behaved. It’s pretty effective when you boil it down. Keep your eyes on yourself, not over your shoulder or over your fence.

What is that to you?

4.     What is the number one here?

There’s that thing we want to do. But it’s big. And we’re stuck. We know what the first step is, but what happens at step 17? We don’t know. It’s unclear. So we don’t even start, because we want certainty and a smooth path.

And the longer we stay stuck, it gets harder to move into action. We get tangled in a sea of complicated thoughts, trying to second guess all the unknowns along the path. So to appear capable, confident, skilled. Not foolish. God forbid we make a mistake!

How do we cross over from spectating to participating?

Ask, “What’s the number one here?” Then just do it. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll do two – even if two may be different by then.

Step by step by step. It’s impossible to see the whole course, so commit to action, be curious and open. Keep moving. You don’t need to have a clear vision of step 17 yet!

Wowsers, some big truth telling here. As a new business owner, I’m faced with new. Different. Unknown. Unfamiliar. All the time. I’m committing to shifting my perception to one of excitement, intrigue and purposeful incremental action rather than anxiety, fear and avoidance of action.

Care to join me?

5.     What can you do to remind yourself that you have today?

A physical reminder, or moving meditation, can help anchor you into a space of gratitude and presence. Remembering that you are here and alive today.

Bell spoke of people who are thriving at a deep level, have a ritual that is personally meaningful for them that helps them feel into that place of aliveness.

He spoke about moving houses many times with his wife and family, and always carting around the heavy boxes of ‘good’ china that remained saved for a ‘special’ occasion – but were remain unused. Remembering that every day is a gift, they now use the special china for family breakfasts. It is a tangible, physical reminder to celebrate and mark life with gratitude for the here and now.

For some it might be baking cake, going for a hike in the forest, surfing, running, singing, sewing. The possibilities are endless. Choose what gives you that sense of awe and vitality and do it.

Are you putting off doing something special? Don’t wait.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016