Smiling multiracial female musician in headphones playing melody on synth electronic musical instrument

Courtsey of istockphoto.

Music as we know it today has evolved over many centuries and can be said to be as old as man himself.
Most ancient cultures like those of Greece, Rome, China, India and Africa used songs accompanied with local instruments and dances to celebrate births, weddings, seasons and commiserate over funerals. Music entertains, teaches and connects people.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.’’- Victor Hugo
In my country, the Baganda- an ancient kingdom on the shores of Lake Nalubaale/Victoria, have used drums, xylophones, flutes and lyres in the Buganda Court Music, community communication and in rituals.
Studies done by neuro physicians and music therapists of our time have proved that listening to music exercises our brains- it stimulates the brain, connects the right (logic)and the left(creative) sides producing a total brain work out. You have to engage almost all areas of your brain to make sense of the music.
As a result of the workout :
• The heart rate slows down
• The blood pressure goes down
• The Stress hormone: Cortisol , level in the blood goes down
• The brain produces more Dopamine, Serotonin, endorphins- the ‘ Feel good hormones’. It elevates the mood of each individual, gets you excited, relaxes muscles, calms and relaxes you.

Human beings have five major senses: Vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Using High Resolution foetal Ultrasound, it has been revealed that the baby growing in the womb can smell the amniotic fluid surrounding it by 10 weeks of the pregnancy.
It can hear by 18 weeks of pregnancy. It can hear the mother’s heartbeat. Between 27-29 weeks, the foetus can hear some sounds outside the mother’s womb like her voice though muffled. The mother’s voice becomes clearer as the brain matures. The foetus responds to the sounds heard by changes in its heart rate, breathing and movements. Music psychology researchers have shown that playing music , talking and reading to the growing baby helps to develop the baby’s hearing, memory and emotions.

Studies done by Sleep coaches show that adequate sleep of 7-8 hours a day promotes good health and plays a big role in the control of chronic infections and mental health illnesses like depression.
During sleep, the body repairs itself and the Immune system detects and eliminates molecules and cells that display foreign antigens and altered self-antigens or evidence of cellular damage.
The Immune cells kill germs and contain the infection – promoting healing and recovery. Adequate sleep promotes the health of the Immune system. Inadequate sleep is associated with changes in the Immunity. It increases infectious disease risk, causes slow healing of injuries and recurrent infections.
Having less than five hours of quality sleep is associated with morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke over time.
Those aged 65 years and above, are most vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer due to the natural ageing of the Immune system.
Listening to soft music of 60-70 decibels has shown to boost sleep quality and quantity.
It makes you feel happy, relaxed and lowers the stress hormone, Cortisol, levels.
For generations, parents have been singing lullabies to children to help them go to sleep.

“ In my solitude, I sing to myself a sweet lullaby, as sweet as my mother used to sing to me.’’- Albert Cohen
Soft music distracts us from the troubles of the day, helps our bodies to relax and to fall asleep.
For a normal adult, listening to music from another era or genre challenges your brain more than listening to the old and familiar. Struggling to understand the new sound works out the brain. I can compare it to trying out the difficult crossword after the easy one or elevating yourself from the Sudoku to the Mudoku number-placement puzzle.
I for one listen to some good gospel music regularly as I drift off to sleep. Sometimes, I wake up much later to switch off the music.

In the last one month, I have had two close relatives seriously sick in Intensive Care Unit at two different hospitals in Kampala.
In an attempt to promote their recovery, we have had to play some music to them . It helps to stimulate both sides of the brain , giving it a total work out. It is believed that as we grow, each one develops her /his favourite music. We had to look for their type of music- songs known and of meaning to them to jog their memories.
According to the healthharvard.edu website, such music activates the memory centre , the emotional one and motor( movements). The electric activity of the brain measured during this time of stimulation is increased.

Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.’’– Debasish Mridha
Interestingly, touch and hearing are the last senses to lose function in a dying patient.

Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’’- Plato
Archives show that Formal Music Therapy has been used to treat soldiers recovering from the effects of war in Army hospitals in USA since 1945, after the Second World War. It helped the soldiers to heal psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively and socially. It took the forms of listening, singing, playing instruments or composing music.
Since then, Music therapy services have gained significance in accomplishing individualised goals like reducing stress, improving mood and self-expression.
Research studies have shown that people of all backgrounds, ages and cultures can respond to music and music therapy in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, mental health centres, outpatient clinics, prisons, juvenile detention centres and homes. Through involvement in music your abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of your life.

“Where words fail, music speaks.’’– Hans Christian Anderson
Next time you listen to music, appreciate and enjoy it for all what it is: a universal language, a powerful tool of communication, relevant to our physical and mental health and essential to the function of our society and culture.

How often do you turn to your favourite music or write songs or poetry to comfort yourself when facing a big challenge?

The Art of Balancing Yes and No

Man is a social animal; goes about making relationships. In doing so , he looks for acceptance, appreciation, affirmation and acknowledgement. The journey  through life traditionally starts in the family follows through the community , nation and in this Digital era, it extends to the global village.

The psychologists tell us that each one of us needs four basic attributes to go through life:

  • Basic optimism
  • The capacity to band together  for support
  • The courage to fight for yourself and others
  • Compassion and care for yourself and others.

These four together provide us with the basic skills for living in society. At the same time, each one of us needs to develop four abilities: to strive, to let go , to love and to create if we are to express our unique gifts and talents and make a difference in the communities we live in.

Since we are interconnected, what I do has a ripple effect on those around me and what they do affects me  as well. Among the inner guides within our unconscious  is the Caregiver and when it is activated in our lives  and  is dominating  the other inner guides like the Innocent, the Warrior, the Ruler, the Fool, the Sage, we see people in need of our care.  While our thinking and acting is dominated by the Caregiver, we reach out to help and make a difference through love and sacrifice.

Over time, we learn that we cannot be everything or be everything to all. We are then forced to develop a safety mechanism to protect ourselves against the demands of this world.We can only do this by choosing to say “no” or “yes” and accepting the responsibility for that choice.

Failing to say “no” can result in exhaustion; burn out, depression and being physically sick . Each one of us has to learn to make a conscious choice to say “no” to what does not fit in her/his agenda or does not contribute to her/his personal understanding and growth.

And when you say “yes” you have to willingly give fully and completely within your limits and priorities. Look people in the eye and say “No”, do not get caught in the middle of yes and no; it leaves people hanging.  When you say it,mean it otherwise you will not be taken seriously.

“ NO is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.” – Sharon . E. Rainey.

Life is essentially about relationships and the choices we make. Choices have consequences. When faced with options, we end up making a series of YES  and  NO and gradually build up the big picture of our lives. As I said earlier, we are social animals living interdependently. We all start by conforming to please family, friends and peers and continue to ensure success and status doing the same thing. The majority of us will struggle to do what we really want without losing our family and friends. Juggling both family and work, one can find herself taking on too many commitments and too fast. This has resulted in burnout- exhausted and overwhelmed. It is our responsibility to empower the young to avoid and to handle such situations. It goes back to teaching them and supporting them in creating emotional and spiritual balance by simply learning to balance YES and NO.

“Until you  learn how to confidently say No to so many things , you will still always say Yes to many things.’’ Enest Agyemang Yeboah

This is where the 80/20 Rule of Time Management comes in handy. At any one stage in your life, you have to define what is most important to you and focus your time, energy, efforts and resources on that. What you focus on always grows.

You have to prioritize the 20% most important things to you and devote 80% of your time on them. Anything else is regarded as a distraction and should not be allowed to steal your time. We all have 24 hours in a day but the most successful among us are those who have mastered the art of using their time wisely.

 Developing this 80/20 mindset will help you to use your time effectively. The “urgent” will stop drowning out the most important activities that advance your overall purpose in life. You will stay focused on the key stuff in your life. You will be able to beat the stressful lifestyle that puts you under extreme pressure.

As we grow and take on more responsibilities only to retire later, the 20% most important things in life also change. You have to continue setting your priorities, it will lead you into making good choices about what you want to be and do. You will stop wasting time on things that do not matter to you.

I have learned to apply this 80/20 Rule on a daily basis and it has worked wonders. I have been able to do much more in a day and generally I have been able to move the most important things in my life forward. I have been able to do amazing things by reducing the distractions. It continues to help me find more meaning and purpose in my life.

 Each day throws you many options all day long and saying YES or NO to these options points you into a different direction.  Over time, your personal growth comes in a series of small, incremental changes resulting from the choices you made and your commitment to follow things through. Later in life, the strong urge to please, to fit in, to satisfy the demands of family and peer groups wears off and you want to live a life of more significance and depth. You consider what adds value to your life: what makes your heart resonate with your soul and what makes you feel good about yourself and brings fun in your life.

As learning is for life, I am still learning and trying to master the art of balancing YES and NO. As they say: Practice makes perfect.

One last quote: “When you say no to the wrong people, it opens up the space for the right people to come in.’’ Joe Calloway.

 QUESTION: Are you one of those people who find it hard to say NO?

Has this post helped you to see the need to take courage and to develop the discipline to say NO?


Painting the canvas of life is simply to create the life you want for yourself. You use your gifts , talents and strength of character to build what you want. What matters most is that at the end of your life you have completed what was your own to do and influenced others around you to build a better world. Like the successful professional artist, painting on the canvas of your life demands a lot from you. You create to express beauty and significance in your life depending on your imagination and what you know at that moment in time.

As children,our parents nurture and care for us; teaching us the knowledge and skills that we need to grow and develop into independent and self-sufficient adults. The formal education enables us to become useful to ourselves and the communities we live in.
Generally, by the age of twenty we have developed the sense of responsibility to decide to be ourselves and a plan to achieve our biggest dream in life. We develop a vision for our lives and commit to fulfill that vision.

All of us are at different stages on our journeys and the psychologist agree on the most important characteristic traits we need to complete painting the canvas of our lives.
• Passion- the fuel that drives your desire to create, to paint the canvas the colours of your choice. Without passion you cannot get satisfaction out of what you do with yourself.
• Persistence- to start and finish what you choose to do, learn new skills to improve yourself and sustain you through over the course of a lifetime.
• Patience- painting the canvas of life takes a lifetime. It requires barrels of patience to take you through the twists and turns of such a journey. There is no guarantee that it will turn out as you planned. Patience and persistence are together fuelled by passion.
• A Sense of Adventure- life itself is an adventure, loving life and having a spirit of adventure allows you to explore new things and to be willing to follow the direction in which the wind blows you.
• Discipline- You need it to start the painting and follow it through. Each morning you have to wake up determined to put one foot in front of the other over the course of a lifetime. This is the only way you can finish painting the canvas and have something to show for having lived in your time and made a difference.
It is never lost on me that little by little, I get the work done.

As a senior citizen I can look back at my life and share with you on how I have fared so far.
Between the ages of 20-30, I started claiming my own power; I learned to depend on myself while gradually taking on life’s challenges and responsibilities.

30-40- it was essential that I honed my craft and this drove me to push the boundaries. I recognized that what I loved worked its way into what I was creating. It was thrilling to take simple things like two people in love and turn them into something strikingly beautiful – marriage. It increased my willingness to try new things. Through trial and error, I got it right.

40+-It dawned on me that half of my life was over so I no longer had all the time in the world. I looked closely at my life and saw the need to make some important changes. I had to listen to my inner voice , reduce my circle of friends and choose to belong to something bigger than myself if I were to be more effective in life. I became an active member of my community. I was creating a new identity for myself during this mid-life period. I needed to discover and express my true Self at a deeper level. At the same time, I was still clinging on the big dreams for my life.

I needed to stay motivated and to persevere to achieve my big dreams. I needed to become better and better; there was no room for complacency. Through the challenges and struggles that life had thrown at me, I had come to realize that I was not the master of my destiny but instead I needed to acquire more knowledge to help me understand myself and what I really wanted in life.

By my sixtieth birthday, I had been there , I had done that and yet I did not feel complete and whole. The urge to express my authenticity and uniqueness other than follow the predetermined roles of culture and society had become more pronounced. There was no going back on the recreation of my life: my life my own. I was fully awakened and ready to take the responsibility for being true to myself. I had more to gain than to lose by being my true self.
Oscar Levant(1906-1972) an American pianist said: “It’s not what you are, it’s what you don’t become that hurts.’’

I tapped into the fullness of my capacities, the good and the bad. This was the time when my heart, mind and soul worked in unison to influence the direction of my life. To my amazement, at that moment in time, I reached the highest level of mastery. The psychologists tell us that when we create from our hearts ,minds and souls, we create things that are true and beautiful. This is what makes it possible for any individual to have spiritual depth and to be successful in life, work and love.

For where I am at this moment in time, I am both mature and humble enough to take full responsibility for what I create and be held accountable for it. I can even stand back to admire and take pride in what I have created. The older I grow, the more I understand that painting is a lifetime responsibility and as long both my heart and belly are not full, I cannot hang up my painting brushes.

With hindsight, I am happy to have created my own life. I recognize that there were moments when I never painted, other times I created masterpieces beyond my own imagination and other times I have had to improve on the colours. I now prefer to use vibrant and brilliant colours when painting.

The greatest lesson that I have learned so far is that: little by little, doing what seems right and authentic, I grow into what I was meant to be. The responsibility to remain useful to my community urges me to share my wealth of knowledge and experiences with those around me.
Robert John Meechan said : “ Your life as a teacher begins the day you realize that you are always a learner.’’
Since learning is a lifetime job then we are all naturally lifelong teachers.

QUESTION: While painting the canvas of your life, how often do you remember that you have all the colours of the rainbow to choose from?