Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.
Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson. And this is Enhance Life with Music: A holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. My guest today is Jeff Mims. Jeff is a creativity study scholar and researcher who explores ways to experience optimal performance throughout life. Jeff is a current doctor of psychology candidate and active presenter on topics related to music and psychology, and is operations lead at the Music and Expressive Arts Center of Oklahoma, an organization focused on training and education at the intersection of music and mental wellness. Welcome to enhance life with music, Jeff.
Jeff Mims: [00:00:40] Hello. Hello, Mindy. Thank you so much for having me.
Mindy Peterson: [00:00:43] My pleasure. This is such a treat for me to chat with you in real time. We connected a while back on LinkedIn and discovered pretty quickly that we’re both very simpatico when it comes to the topics of music and psychology and love the work you’re doing. And certainly you share your passion for the power of music as a tool in the mental health toolkit.
Jeff Mims: [00:01:05] Absolutely.
Mindy Peterson: [00:01:06] So starting out, tell us about what’s happening at the Music and Expressive Arts Center at that intersection of music and mental wellness. And at some point, I want you to tell us to where you are in this process of the doctor of psychology that you’re working on.
Jeff Mims: [00:01:21] Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Yes. So Music and Expressive Arts Center of Oklahoma, we are an organization here in Oklahoma City that was created basically organically. As you can imagine. Music and psychology is a there’s a certain sector of like community, right? So in an attempt to really find our people in Oklahoma, when we couldn’t find them, we essentially created this organization as a way to to reach out to our community and essentially find our people. And so what we do is we facilitate workshops and training seminars at the intersection of psychology, mental wellness, music, the creative arts. And what we’re really doing is we are trying to play our role in this conversation that our society at large is having around mental wellness and introduce these different modalities, creative modalities and expressive arts modalities, but also placing an emphasis on music. Because, one, as the operations lead of MEACO, my doctoral research is really specifically heavily related to music and psychology.
Mindy Peterson: [00:02:25] And I’ll just interject real quick that MEACO must be how you pronounce the acronym of Music and Expressive Arts Center in Oklahoma. They get that, right?
Jeff Mims: [00:02:34] Yes, that’s correct. Yes. So I know for sure just because, you know.
Mindy Peterson: [00:02:38] Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but no.
Jeff Mims: [00:02:39] Yeah. So that’s what we do.
Mindy Peterson: [00:02:41] And tell us where you are in your doctor of psychology process.
Jeff Mims: [00:02:45] I am finalizing my dissertation as we speak. I am now doing my another round of edits and really just going back through to make sure I’ve got everything I need. I concluded that actually concluded the research study last summer and it was a qualitative study on a specific music experience that happens for professional musicians and I can’t wait to this is done where I can actually reveal this and reveal the results from this study. And so I’m really excited to do that. But I am nearing the end and hopefully that will happen for me before May. That’s the.
Mindy Peterson: [00:03:19] Plan. Wow. Yeah, you’re right. Getting right up to the finish line here. Congratulations on that. Well, MEACO and their website says that Miyoko uses music to empower new ideas in today’s mental health professions. Tell us about what some of those new ideas are that you’re seeing at that intersection of mental health and music.
Jeff Mims: [00:03:41] The mental health conversation right now is is everywhere, right? So people are organizations. Individuals are interested in really understanding or even talking about mental health on the basic level. And so my training basically teaches me that mental health is a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, you have clinical mental illness and mental diagnosis. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you have positive psychology and humanistic and existential modalities and different approaches to mental wellness. And being with MEACO, some of the new ideas that we’re bringing are more in line with humanistic and positive psychology in the sense that we want to encourage people to tap into maybe things that they haven’t tapped into. So how can you be not only mentally healthy but mentally well, like, how can you flourish and be on the end of the spectrum where you’re more closely associated with happiness and feelings of joy and things like that? And so what we know is that creativity and self expression music more specifically can help to produce those type of things, even as a way of processing feelings and ideas and emotions, music and creativity and self expression really have a way of really have a magical way of doing that for the individual.
Mindy Peterson: [00:04:58] Yeah, I like how you talk. About the spectrum of mental wellness, because there is a spectrum and all of us can be optimizing our mental wellness, whether we’re at the end of the spectrum or we have a diagnosed mental illness, or we’re at the end of the spectrum where we just want to thrive and achieve our optimal performance. With Miyoko’s work, does it pretty much address that entire spectrum, or is it more focused in a certain spot along the spectrum?
Jeff Mims: [00:05:25] As a mental health professional, you kind of have to be ready to listen and appropriately address whatever shows up in the moment. So that’s something that we take very seriously, but it’s also part of our team approach. We can refer, we can link anyone and kind of meet individuals where they are. But a lot of times these are individuals who may just want to learn about psychology or want to explore their own creative gifts. So, you know, we’re more closely aligned with the positive psychology and creativity as as far as mental wellness, how can you tap into your gifts, really, gifts that you may not have been aware of? Or how can we awaken and nourish some of the creativity that may lie dormant? How can we do that in a way that’s going to help you flourish and thrive within the society?
Mindy Peterson: [00:06:08] So what are some of the methods and ways that you’re seeing being effective with using music to enhance mental health and wellness?
Jeff Mims: [00:06:17] We are a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association as well, and so we use those modalities, the modalities that are in line with person centered, expressive arts therapy. So there are moments of free writing or deep music listening exercises and free body movement. And then, of course, these modalities place heavy emphasis on an individual’s creativity. And so in an exercise, an individual may something may show up where they’re listening to a song, there may be something in the lyrics that emerge or speak to something that they’re feeling more deeply. And so that may be the very thing that they either share with another individual because we may have a breakout session. And so those are some of the modalities that we use to to really help the individual tap in and see what’s going on as a way of really listening to themselves. And when we do that, it’s always really transformational, the things that can come out of those types of experiences with the use of those modalities and different methods.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:18] So when you talk about using those modalities, the modalities of the international group, I think you mentioned free body movement. So is that dance?
Jeff Mims: [00:07:28] Exactly.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:29] That’s exactly what it is. So so break the other modalities down into like layperson’s terms. What were some of the other ones that you mentioned?
Jeff Mims: [00:07:36] So there is like a free riding, which is where you just write freely for 10 minutes, right? Like let’s just say that’s the exercise. So and the goal of this exercise and this is created by Dr. Natalie Rogers, the goal of this exercise is to just keep the pin moving. So you may draw, you may doodle, you may write a poem, whatever shows up for you in that moment. And what we believe is that whatever shows up for you, there’s a reason that that’s showing up. And that’s important. Not only is it important, but those things have meanings that are deeply meaningful, psychologically. Right. And so that’s information that we can use to help you process what it is that you’re feeling. So that’s one modality. Another one is the music listening exercise, which is where you basically close your eyes and you open yourself up to this music experience. And then in a similar way, because the modalities, they can overlap and you can use whatever works for you because again, everybody doesn’t want to dance when it’s time to explore with the dance modality. And so everyone is open to choose which modality works best for. Or you can just simply listen and we can talk about what you feel, or because we’re all feeling and experiencing, having a different experience, even in the same, even though we’re sharing that moment, we’re all living and having a different experience. So yeah, there’s free body movement, which is dance or the deep music listening, and then the doodling or free writing exercise.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:00] So are those sort of the three main modalities then?
Jeff Mims: [00:09:03] Yeah, those are the three main ones that we use. There are others because there are other sections of creativity and expressive arts where scholars take their own expertise and kind of focus in on this thing looking forward down the line in the future. That is definitely something that we want to do with MEACO because our organization is focused on music research and and what happens with music listening. And so we really want to more or less specialize in that more. But we’re open to the expressive arts piece as well because again, you know, music may not be the modality of choosing for each individual.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:40] Okay. So since MEACO does focus more on the music modalities, do you have some go to ways that you recommend to give ideas for how music can be utilized to improve mental health? Any books? What are some resources that you’re familiar with that you recommend there?
Jeff Mims: [00:10:00] Of course, there are tons of books, not necessarily on music and psychology, to be honest, because when I was doing my research, this is actually one of the things that I found is that there really is such a gap in scarcity in the field of psychology as it relates to music and mental wellness. I’m not saying there isn’t anything because there are books like being music. The Art of Improv is Open Improvisation by Marc Miller. That’s that’s a good book. Of course there is flow, the psychology of optimal experience. But really and that’s really not really about music, even though there is some music there. And so, you know, like there are different sources where you can kind of pull out different elements of like for example, when I read Flow as a musician, I’m like, yeah, that’s absolutely a flow space, that happy place. Absolutely. Music definitely provides that. And so there are sources in books, but research is still being done in this field. Psychology Today is a good place where you see new studies and different things being done regarding like Dr. Shahram Hashmi Psychology Day. He did an article on Six Ways Music Can Boost Your Mood. And I think one was musical pleasure. So just the pleasure of listening to music and the relaxation that it provides. There are medical and physiological benefits that you get just from taking a moment and listening to music that you enjoy music as catharsis, that flooding of emotions.
Jeff Mims: [00:11:29] Sometimes music can articulate even better than we can what we’re experiencing. You know, we’ve seen that with blues music or music that is heavily lyrical love songs, things like that, feeling, the music, feeling connected to the music moving and rhythm. Of course, everyone knows that exercise is healthy. So is music and authentic movement as a way of dancing and responding. Just that authentic movement to music has physical medical benefits. Zumba is something that kind of comes to mind. He also mentioned music as a friend, being seen and heard. Imagine having a rough day, but you don’t have any one to really go to psychotherapy. You don’t want to, but you’re still having that experience. Sometimes music, the right song at the right time, can create a shift in your mood and alter your state of consciousness. Music brings memories. A song can transport you back to a specific moment in time. That state of mind and that state of being can shift you to a happy place. Music has that capacity and again, this the research in the field is still being done. This is an area that I would probably say within the next ten years is going to be because, again, the mental health conversation is at an all time high. Right. People are looking for new ways to have this conversation. And music is a great one.
Mindy Peterson: [00:12:49] Yeah, well, I’m glad you mentioned The Psychology Today, so because I know you a lot of the posts that you have posted, I love all of them, but a lot of them, I’m realizing, do come from Psychology Today. And I think some of those posts have led to some podcast guests on this podcast. It’s a great resource, and not all of it, of course, is music related, but there are quite a few posts related to music and mental wellness. So love that idea. And a lot of the methods that you’re describing in terms of feeling like you have a friend, maybe you have a bad day, you have something going on that you’re struggling with. Just listening to those lyrics, as you pointed out, can make us feel like, Oh, I’m not the only person who is experiencing this or has experienced this. Somebody else can relate to this too. So much so that they wrote these lyrics that are really resonating with me right now.
Jeff Mims: [00:13:45] Absolutely. And with lyrics, there are those subjective meanings, right? Like it means something for me and that it mean something different for you. But then there are also those inner subjective qualities that where we we can really essentially feel we can feel what they’re feeling and they can feel what we’re feeling. And that creates a shift. And I mean, it can be transformational beyond what we can imagine. Honestly.
Mindy Peterson: [00:14:12] If someone’s listening to this and they say, okay, I’m kind of pinpointing where I feel I am. On that mental health spectrum that you described, I wonder what I could do to just move myself a little bit closer to that thriving end of the spectrum. Using music, what would you recommend? What are a few little things that people could do with music that maybe we haven’t mentioned yet?
Jeff Mims: [00:14:34] Absolutely. I would start with music that you enjoy. And the reason I say that is because there is a reason that you enjoy it, but you may not even be fully aware of the reasons why you enjoy that particular music, particular sound. And so I would I would start there because there is a reason why you are attracted to certain music or music makes you feel a certain way. And so I would begin there and then and just see what. Emerges for you. I would go down that rabbit hole for sure.
Mindy Peterson: [00:15:02] As you’ve been describing some of these different options and modalities and methods. I’m realizing a lot of us probably do these to some extent. We probably do use music therapeutically to some extent, but we may not really be recognizing that that’s what we’re doing. Exactly. So, for example, the free body movement that was more it’s dance related, but music would make that so much better. I mean, who’s going to just dance with no music going? So next time anyone feels like they want to just bump up the mental wellness a notch using music, pick some good dance music and just start moving to it. And I think it’s probably possible for us to get more benefit out of that just by being cognizant of the effect that it is having. We just kind of do these things without thinking. Maybe we’re feeling sad. And so we put some sad music on, you know, the classic breakup song after after we’ve broken up with someone and just being aware of the therapeutic benefit that that has, I think can enhance and exponentially benefit us as we’re as we’re experiencing that. Any thoughts on that?
Jeff Mims: [00:16:15] Absolutely. And it comes back to a term that we use in psychology, even in psychotherapy, it’s called openness. And so approaching with openness, which is what allows a new found awareness or allows an opportunity or a moment of transformation. A lot of times people are looking for this big boom, bam, complete shift, 180 and you know, that’s great if that happens. But you may only be allowed a moment. You maybe only afforded a moment. And so with these approaches, even if you’re only able to have a moment, that one moment can be the shift and change that you need that can be really meaningful. Just being open to exploring a new music. There may be that one moment that you’re looking for, you know what I mean? Like enhancing lines with music. It’s just even if even if all you get is a moment, we really that that’s kind of what our focus is. We want to try to create as many of those moments as possible. Mm hmm. I want to just tell people, Mindy, the work that you’re doing in this field is, like, so amazing. It’s so incredible. I’ve been able to connect with other scholars in the field, and I talk a lot about our community, the music and psychology community, because I feel like that’s really what we are. We’re from all over the world, but it’s really it’s really cool when you are able to connect with your people. So I appreciate everything that you’re doing and I really believe your website is is a database that we can visit and tap into to get other, you know, to expand our knowledge on music and how it makes us feel and how it greatly impacts the way we experience the world.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:50] Oh, well, thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
Jeff Mims: [00:17:54] Thank you.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:54] MEACO is a leading organization sharing music and psychology research. Are there any particular research studies? I know you said this is still a developing area, but are there any particular studies that have really caught your attention or that you’re you have your eye on whether it’s something that’s an ongoing study or something that was recently completed that you want to tell us about?
Jeff Mims: [00:18:17] Yeah, absolutely. We share a ton of content, as you know, on LinkedIn. And what’s funny? One thing that we’ve learned is our community, the music and psychology community, is it’s not the largest community, but we do have a community of people from all over the world who really embrace and really feel strongly connected with music. And it has mental health benefits, right? And so we share a ton of content. And a lot of times if you look for and I think we may have even gotten connected through LinkedIn just because of this, like if you’re looking for music and psychology content or articles or journals or research studies, there is a good chance that you’ll come across one of our posts because we post a ton of content. And so and this is connected us with a lot of researchers and again, our community from around the world.
Mindy Peterson: [00:19:07] Uh huh. Well, I’m kind of pulling together this list just of things I’m gleaning as you’re talking that I think would be really great ideas for people to do. One of them is what you just mentioned, search on LinkedIn or another platform, or even just on a Google search for music and psychology resources. And if you find one that you like, follow that organization or person on whatever platform they’re sharing. Another idea that you mentioned was to explore new music. A lot of us are familiar with playing that breakup song, you know, when we just have that desire to sit with some sad feelings and process those. But I like your idea of trying out some new music, whether it’s a new genre, a new artist, and just see where that exploration leads in terms of feelings of creativity. Your inspiration, maybe you’ll find some new some new artists or music that really do it for you in terms of getting you feeling creative and feeling whatever it is you’re looking for, whether it’s calm, joyful, strong. Playlists could be really important to, I’m guessing, in that quest, whether it’s the playlist for feeling energetic. I imagine most of us have some of these playlists already, whether it’s the workout playlist or the playlist I use when I’m running, compared to the playlist I use when I’m lifting weights or the playlist I want to play with my family. I know I have a family playlist that’s like feel good music to listen to on the weekend when the whole family is around. But again, just being cognizant of the effect that certain music groupings can have on us and our mood and our environment and our feelings of motivation, and then intentionally putting together a playlist that inspires those feelings, I think could be really helpful. Any any thoughts on that?
Jeff Mims: [00:21:05] Exactly. I mean, you hit it on the head. That’s absolutely so. Yeah. Using music, being intentional about the music that or approaching music or using music, adding more music. I remember on LinkedIn, I created a post. What music did you have for breakfast this morning? And it was and it was great, the different things that people would share because.
Mindy Peterson: [00:21:26] You know.
Jeff Mims: [00:21:27] That you remember that. Yeah. And so it was, it was super interactive and people were really happy to have that conversation about being intentional about, Hey, I’m going to have my breakfast and I’m going to throw in some music as a jumpstart to my day and because why not create that for yourself? So yeah, being intentional about the music, being open, exploring and then not only that, but listening and paying attention to yourself to see what’s happening in the body, what’s happening in my emotions as I approach this music, what’s showing up for me, what ideas and why. And you could even discuss those with the professional to help process the feelings, if that’s something that you’re not able to do by yourself.
Mindy Peterson: [00:22:07] Mm hmm. There’s so much use of the the term mindfulness within the mental wellness realm. And that’s really coming to my mind now, is we’re talking about just being aware of what sounds are coming into our head, what music is coming in, and the effect that it’s having. Do you do a lot with mindfulness and music?
Jeff Mims: [00:22:29] Absolutely. When we do our seminars, they’re always a mindfulness meditation that is a part of that. But yes, it is definitely a part of the work as well. And of course, because of the stillness that it provides, right, the sitting with yourself and creating that moment of just being steel and listening to your heart and centering yourself. And so music can help with that as well.
Mindy Peterson: [00:22:50] Well, that’s sort of my takeaway from this conversation, is being aware is really the first step, being aware of what music is in your life and how it’s affecting you. When I think about my life, there’s so many ways music has been integrated into my life that I don’t really even think about. Like, for example, when you brought up, what music did you have for breakfast? I was thinking, I am not a morning person, so I don’t really want to talk or listen to much in the morning. I’m this, but are you?
Jeff Mims: [00:23:26] Oh, absolutely.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:27] Okay. I’m with you there. But my alarm on my phone is a song. It’s a track and it’s one that is very like, easy. It just kind of, like, eases me awake. Some people are like, how do you even wake up to that? And why don’t you want something that’s energetic and big? I’m like, Oh my goodness, that would just drive me crazy. Like that would not get me off to a good start in the day, right?
Jeff Mims: [00:23:54] It’s more disruptive.
Mindy Peterson: [00:23:55] Yeah. I need the musical equivalent of just slowly cracking the shades and letting a little bit of light come in and just easing into it. So that’s one way now that as I’m thinking about it, that music does really it’s been made a part of my life and it does ease me into my day and gets me started off on a gentle foot. So there’s that. There’s I have ringtones on my phone that are set to songs that I love, mostly. Michael Franti Songs like The Sound of Sunshine, you know, because then when I hear those ringtones, it’s like, Oh, the sound is sunshine. It’s my daughter calling me, you know? So those are other ways that I’m as I’m thinking about it. Music has been made a part of my life, and just being aware and cognizant of that can increase the benefits at night. When I’m getting ready for bed and just kind of unwinding, I listen to completely different music than I listen to during the day or while I’m cleaning the house or when I’m on a car ride and really want to. Have more of that deep listening experience where I’m processing things or if I’m having a dinner party. So going back to my take away, I guess I’m thinking a great place for any listener to start, regardless of where they are in that mental wellness spectrum is just be aware of what you’re listening to, how it affects you, and then to take that next step of being more intentional and incorporating some music in ways that you think will help bring you just to the next step on that path of mental wellness. And that could be experimenting. It could be using music that’s tried and true. And, you know, you get certain results. Well, anything else that you want to mention about how or why music can be an effective tool in the mental health toolkit?
Jeff Mims: [00:25:50] Yeah, sure. When we talk about mental health, one of the things that doesn’t often get discussed is the cultural stigma. Like cultural groups generally have a tougher time with traditional counseling or the conversation around mental health because, you know, if you’re talking about mental health and maybe you’re crazy. And so in building in the counseling and therapeutic relationship, that trust is very important. Being open and stagnation is also a very real thing. Sometimes clients feel blocked where they don’t want to talk or can’t really feel or don’t have the words. And so music for cultural groups, music and creative arts, expressive arts, that’s something that we connect to. That’s something that we kind of get. I’ve heard people say, you know, I don’t want to do talk therapy. I don’t want to sit with a therapist, I don’t want to do that. But this music thing and and creating, I can do that, you know what I mean? And so it’s just really a way to approach and have the conversation. But it fosters trust. It builds trust, it breaks barriers, shatters barriers, and then builds a bridge to this newfound awareness of what actually is mental health and mental health.
Mindy Peterson: [00:27:02] I love that. Well, Jeff, I guess all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending, a coda. And you have a song that you’re going to share with us today. In closing, tell us about the song that we’re going to hear next.
Jeff Mims: [00:27:17] Yes, sure. So I’ll tell you about the song. But I want to I want to share a short story first, if you don’t. Yeah, sir. This is a story basically about how I came into music or even in the question a moment that has really enhanced your life with music. And this was basically the night that I was born. My dad was a musician in concert. My mom is on the front row going into labor and my dad is playing and the baby’s kicking and she’s trying to get his attention to say, Hey, the baby’s coming, the baby’s coming, and he’s just playing. He’s jamming. And he he’s looking at a flow state. Absolutely. And and he looks at her and he says, well, can we play one more song? And she’s like, Are you kidding? Like, really? One more song? Like, no, we have to go now, right?
Mindy Peterson: [00:28:05] We want to be alive one more night.
Jeff Mims: [00:28:07] Exactly. And so so they stop. Of course, they don’t play another song, but they go to the hospital. And that was the night that I was born. And so I remember back and even my journey was psychology. Getting into this, I really wanted to understand more a couple of things. So there are two psychological questions that come up as I reflect on that experience is what is so special about this moment with music that my dad was wanting, willing to delay just a little bit for a few more moments within this lived experience on stage? Right. And then to what more can be said about the conversation between the baby and the womb and the environment, the musical environment, because she would say the harder they played, the harder you would kick, the harder they are, you would kicks. Right, so and so then here I am a grown person now and I look at my life and my journey has music has always been there. It’s always been a part. So I think that that’s really cool. And those those are a couple of things that I’ll probably spend my professional career researching for as long as time will allow. And then the song that I that I want to share is it’s a song called So. So as a creative artist, there are rare moments when you produce a product that you’re just kind of like happy with or really feels you feel like it really reflects what you were feeling or what you wanted it to, what you wanted to share. And so this song, it really encapsulates that for me. And it’s also a song that I revisit with other musicians. And so this same song, this was in 2009, this recording. But it’s something that I’ve redone over and over again. And as a way of how do you say it, fostering more creativity, I guess, with other musicians and really as a way to have this conversation because it’s kind of a channel that kind of want a moment that I. Love. And it’s a moment that I want to relive as many times as I can.
Transcribed by Sonix.ai