Promoting inclusion and mental well-being | Promouvoir l’inclusion et le mieux-être mental
Inspirations Articles

Music and mindfulness

Music and mindfulness
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

by Danika Swanson

One of the wonderful things about mindfulness is that we can bring our attention to any activity we do throughout our day. As the theme of music is woven throughout this issue of Inspirations, the practice we’ll introduce here invites us to bring our attention to music.

Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, with kindness and curiosity. In previous editions, we’ve focused our attention on various things including the breath, sounds, sending kind thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. For this practice, we’ll explore what it is like to focus our attention on listening to music.

As I have written before, ample emerging research suggests that practicing mindfulness increases well-being and decreases stress and anxiety, supports academic success and enhances emotional skills of children and teens (and their grown-ups too!). The practice of mindful listening, which involves deep focus, may particularly benefit attention and executive functioning. Music has also been shown to enhance well-being and reduce stress, among other benefits to the brain and body. Regardless of the myriad potential benefits, this practice offers a moment for you and your child, or you alone, to slow down, be present and enjoy some good music.

You could try this practice to start your day, before bedtime, during the transition from school or work to home (you could even try this in the car before heading into the house) or anytime you (or your child) are stuck in a moment of intensity or need a break. Wherever you are, try to minimize distractions. You can listen via earbuds, headphones, a speaker, etc.


Pick a favourite piece of music or ask your child to choose a favourite song or piece of music. You can pick anything, but it can help to start with an instrumental piece.

Find a comfortable position. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Bring your attention to your body. Notice any points of contact with a surface – your feet on the floor, your back against a chair, the support of the floor or bed if you are lying down. Scan for any areas of tension. See if you can let them release.

Let your breath return to its natural rhythm.

Then, play your song of choice. If you are comfortable, let your eyes close or gaze softly downward. Listen to the music; try to listen with your whole body. As you listen, notice:

  • Thoughts that arise
  • Memories that pop up
  • Emotions that surface or release
  • Body or physical sensations that you feel – energy, lightness or heaviness, tingling, etc.
  • The music – tempo, sounds, volume, intensity, notes, etc.

If your mind wanders or you get caught up in a memory, gently bring your attention back to the music.

If you feel like it, and your location allows for movement, let the music move you – sway your body, tap your toes or dance around the room!

When the song ends, return to stillness and notice how you feel. What was it like to listen to music mindfully, with your whole body and full attention? What did you notice when you took time to listen rather than just “hear” the music?

Danika Swanson is the consultant for the Spiritual and Community Animation Service of the English Montreal School Board and was trained by Mindful Schools to teach mindfulness to elementary and secondary students.  


Mindful Music Moments Practice:

Mindful Music Moments Playlist:

Listening to Music Mindfully Practice:

Music and Mindfulness: Listen to Music, Mindfully:

Using Music for Mindful Awareness of Emotion: