For Optimal Well-Being, Take 'Notes' From Jazz Music

How jazz music can teach us about maintaining our health.

man and woman listening to music WAYHOME Studio/Shutterstock

In celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, you can be an honorary jazz musician and play the marvelous instrument of your body to create the good health you want.

Your body will flourish with your independent thinking, cooperative action, and possibly even compromises with realities.

Using the metaphors of jazz, you can translate and experiment in ways to care for and heal yourself, in order to jazz up your health to the best level, to beat the band.


Take charge of your body’s potential.

As with jazz, your body is interactive, complex, and influenced by what you hear from others. Enriching the composition are influences such as genetics and the environment, good nutrition, and healthy, regular exercise.

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Your attitudes, habits, and previous experience affect the quality of the music you make.

One of the typical influences is the "organ" orientation of curing a disease or physical problem. Many patients who want or expect a quick cure or accurate diagnosis from an expert reinforce this medical process.

Unfortunately, the lack of incentives for collaboration among practitioners, passivity or noncompliance of patients, monetary advantages of "organ" medicine, and rigid insurance categories also inhibit progress.

Even a committed, responsible person who wants to take charge is often left hanging.

That can include dealing with specialists, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies that don’t coordinate to your benefit as well as the distortions and distractions of electronic records.


Another issue is the separation of conventional and complementary medicine which makes the opportunities each provides less accessible.

In jazz talk, all of these factions and factors create differing, sometimes cacophonous results.

Many of the people involved do not share the same values and vocabularies — they are unintelligible, unproductive, or uninteresting to one another, let alone to you.

Given these realities, who is making sense of such jumbles and building on the opportunities for good health?

Who will integrate the possibilities into a composition that reflects both flow and variety to benefit you? Who will lead the band?

All this is still essentially up to you and how you collaborate to beat the band! Your body is your treasured instrument.


Even if you prefer a solo part, you will need your band for playing to full potential.

Be prepared, though, for the seemingly messy realities of playing with a range of people.

Since the jazz you're creating is interactive and often non-linear, endings can be neat and integrated, abrupt, or trail off into vagueness.

Particularly adept players (a.k.a., the experts) often get the attention, but the supporting players often keep the music going. They range from allied health professionals to receptionists and add themes some experts miss or dismiss.

Although you have your own assumptions and filters, your opportunity lies in how informed and responsible you are about your situation.


Do you have a good repertoire of varied, open-minded experts and supporting players? Are you willing to be honest with yourself about your own relevant behaviors?

Based on your insight and experience, I bet you can find other bridges between the processes and metaphors of jazz and your health.

These themes are interwoven below into additional specific suggestions for supporting your care.

Listen to your body and take repeating themes seriously.

What's a usual medical complaint next to headaches?

Following the common cold, what's the second-greatest cost of lost workdays? If you don't already know the answer, it's back problems.

What’s your recurring physical limitation or concern and its relationship to the parts of your body and your behavioral choices?


What sources do you use for learning about its etiology and potential for improvement?

Cultivate relevant professionals to collaborate for better outcomes. Consider traditional and nontraditional practitioners. Get referrals from people you trust and let go of connections that are not working well.

Participate in medical appointments. Ask open-ended and closed-ended questions — start with "what" and "how" for the former and elicit short responses with the latter.

Keep notes, preferably in one place, such as your smartphone or a notebook, on what you learn and understand.

At important junctures and when possible, include advocates or at least listeners with whom you can discuss what happened at an appointment or procedure.


Engage a range of other experts to contribute to the process, including social workers and nurses. Different training and assumptions often bring new insights.

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Do research on traditional and new approaches.

Use the internet, periodicals, and other sources to test your budding and proven ideas. Do riffs of further exploration and discuss your ideas with people who care about you.

Read more about the healing power of music here. Of course, Google your own ideas to create new views and trails for yourself.

Talk to people with similar experiences and learn the results of what they've done or didn't do. Considering their personalities and tendencies, take what's useful from others' experience and leave the rest.


Think about what fits your nature and situation. Make a composition of important notes from your meetings, reading, and research.

Practice with your team or combo. However tight you are with family, friends, and colleagues, they are not always the best collaborators.

Some have difficulties with sickness or lack of time. Others get worn out from hearing about chronic issues. They may also fall into automatic or mindless routines of relating to you and the tropes you play.

Pay attention to the needs and styles of your helpers and service providers. Find ways of organizing what works for you and them.

Examples include a common website related to your situation, pithy emails, focused meetings, open conversations, and telephone consultations.


Acknowledge their contributions in ways that have meaning to them.

Figure out how much you want and need to plan and how much you can leave to chance.

If you tend to do extensive planning, you may want to allow for some improvisation. On the other hand, if you just tend to let things happen, focus on your care and recovery.

For example, make sure your current advance directives, HIPAA form, and contacts’ information are available to interested parties as well as people on whom you can call for care and support.

Develop a satisfying combination of discipline, spontaneity, organization, and acceptance of what cannot be controlled or cured.

Encourage communication and awareness among your band.

Coordinate among medical experts and gatekeepers, specialists, and allied health professionals who will be involved with your care, if only to make them known to one another.


If they are loath to talk or say they don't have time, at least make written information available. Give lists of key people and their contact information to all concerned. Share the score.

Pay attention to all forms of communication and content best suited to particular people on whom you depend.

Not everyone will have your style or interests.


Find some balance between being true to yourself and fitting into what others prefer in order to keep the conversations, data sharing, and especially the relationships effective and flowing.

Clarify assumptions. Take the risk of being open with or even confronting people on whom you depend.

If you don't, who will look after your interests? Your body is the main instrument for you to keep playing well and being a responsible participant.

Avoid repeating old themes and expecting new music.

The tendency is to sustain or return to everyday routines as soon as there is some improvement or even waning motivation.

While consistent rhythms of activity are important for physical and mental healing, quick, neat fixes may not be possible.


Listen to what your body wants and needs through your intuition and senses, as well as to your combo’s guidance.

Healing can take a while and is not necessarily linear. An individual’s progress differs with resources, commitment, and the situation itself.

Create a vision for your next gig.

Bring together the learning from your own experience, capturing themes to make current and future situations more fluid and beneficial.

Perhaps help others appreciate how your experience relates to them, just as others assisted you.

Whether or not you know or anticipate all the tunes, listen to and join with conversations in the music around and within you over time.


Create your own arrangements too.

Continue jazzing up the quality of your health and life to beat the band.

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Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making visions for current and future work viable. Obtain the bonus first chapter of her now available seventh book, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future and benefit from your invitation to a free consultation on her website.