Opening Up Nature

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The other day I came across a magazine feature about beetle research, inviting citizen scientists to record the beetles they see. Insect sightings and citizen science might seem unlikely themes for a wellbeing blog. But it struck me that taking part in research like this is another, different way of connecting with nature, with all its proven benefits for mood, mental health and wellness.

I remember hearing a few years ago about an interview with a (professional) scientist, who reflected that it was his long years observing bird species which had given his life purpose and direction. And as that was true for him, so too can taking part in nature observation add new purpose and direction to all our lives, and so improve mental wellbeing.

Citizen science can be a confusing expression, but it’s all about empowerment: giving power to the people. It opens up science to all of us. What could seem a closed world behind the laboratory door, with unfamiliar language, is thrown open, and our contribution is welcomed and needed. Purpose and direction absolutely.

I used to record the timings of spring and autumn natural events as part of The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Camendar initiative. Remembering to complete the form and log sightings was a spur to look and observe more closely. It drew me in, so that the timing of leaf fall, the first rowan berries or the departure of the last swallows in autumn mattered more. Taking part reinforced and deepened nature connection for me.

Technology has created new opportunities for people to help, for example as they submit and share photographs or video to aid identification, and use apps like the Mammal Tracker app.

Taking part in citizen science can also be positive for wellbeing as a small but still significant way of contributing to conservation work or lobbying. Records submitted by citizen scientists enable researchers to build a wider and clearer picture of different phenomena. The more data is gathered, the stronger the case for conservationists and policy makers to act for change. So citizen science could help people who feel depressed, anxious or disillusioned by biodiversity’s decline, to harness those feelings to act in these small but practical ways.

Species distribution, bird migration, insect identification, phenology (the timing of natural events): citizen scientists submit many thousands of records every year, across different areas of research. In the Uk many are connected to the Biological Records Centre, although they may be overseen by diverse organisations. And citizen science is worldwide as well. Citizen scientists’ sightings of platypus in eastern Australia are helping monitor the decline of these under-recorded creatures, as just one example.

Nature connection boosts wellbeing particularly by absorbing people’s minds and a sa way to live more in the moment, so that regrets, trauma or fear can be hushed and set aside for a time. Citizen science could contribute to this as it deepens people’s connection, making it more active and participatory (as can planting and growing, for example). It can also be uplifting as an opportunity to learn more about the wonders of nature.

Do you take part in citizen science, or would you like to share other thoughts or responses? It would be great if you would like to share any experiences in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you!

Art On A Journey

On October 19th, a young Syrian refugee will cross the Channel and step ashore in Kent towards the end of a long journey. But this coming ashore will be different to so many others. This young “girl” is actually a puppet called Little Amal, and her journey is a way of highlighting what life is like for young and unaccompanied refugees.

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When I heard about Walk With Amal, it set me thinking about puppetry as an artform and how striking it can be, combining art & craft with drama & performance. It uses materials, colours and shapes to create a mobile artwork which can personify a character or an experience in powerful ways. The character of Little Amal began life on stage, when Good Chance Theatre performed the migration-themed play The Jungle, set in Calais.

Walk With Amal demonstrates how art can become a tool for activism, for learning and for reflection. It can draw together crowds, be a focus for events and make people reassess and think again. An artwork can prove more memorable than a report or media feature. We need the reports and features as well, but art and creativity can help share them. Puppetry becomes symbol.

I’ve experimented with making a simple hand puppet, but this is a world away from that! Little Amal was crafted with great care and skill by the Handspring Puppet Company, which became more widely known through their work for the play War Horse. Moreover, she stands 3.5 metres tall, an eye-catching sight as she moves along.

And she has covered some ground this summer and autumn, nearly 5000 miles in all. Setting out from the border between Syria and Turkey in August, Amal has gone on to cross Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, finally reaching the UK. Throughout the journey, a diverse programme of events has been organized to publicize the Walk and to reach new audiences and communities and different ages. Many have been outdoor events, like a nature walk at the UNSECO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale in Turkey, famed for its thermal baths.

A range of events has also been planned to welcome Amal to the UK. Once she arrives in Folkestone on 19 October, the Walk will move on to Dover and then to Canterbury for a pilgrim’s welcome at the Cathedral (a traditional place of pilgrimage). Other cathedrals feature when Amal reaches London, where there will be prayers at Westminster Cathedral and an event at St Paul’s – as well as a fairground event in Lewisham and music & d ance at the Globe Theatre. Events will mark Little Amal’s journey northwards through Coventry, Sheffield and Barnsley to Manchester, where the Walk ends. Manchester’s event has the evocative title “When The Birds Land”.

At a time when craftivism is engaging many more people in art and craft for change on different levels, Walk With Amal showcases the power & scope of image & creativity to capture imaginations and to embody a cause.

Would you like to share thoughts on puppetry or on art and craft as activism? Or maybe you plan to attend a Walk With Amal event? It would be great if you’d like to share in Medley’s Facebook group group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Or to learn more about the Walk itself, go to https://www.walkwithamal.org

At The Keys

As Piano Month draws to a close, I’ve been thinking what might be distinct about the piano as an instrument, and why it holds such an important place in many people’s musical memory & imaginations.

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Piano music conjures up so many different moods. It can be joyful, triumphant, fun, playful, lively, wistful, dreamy or contemplative. Pieces like piano concertos by Shostakovich, Rachmaninov or Grieg, or the music of Ludovico Einaudi, contrast with a piece like Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. So people can turn to piano music in different moods and at different times and hear their own emotions and experiences mirrored by the music. One composer can create pieces at opposite ends of the mood spectrum – like Elton John, with songs full of verve alongside songs full of lament. Many lullabies focus on the piano, but so do many dance pieces. It defies genre, dominating classical, jazz, rock and pop alike.

Obviously, other musical instruments can convey different moods as well. The piano’s sheer size has contributed to its position, as has its importance in accompanying solo singers, group singalongs, worship or choirs. Moreover, slightly distinct from the orchestra, piano is striking as a solo instrument, and many piano soloists have become particularly famous, from Franz Liszt – the first superstar musician perhaps – to performers of today like Vikingur Olafsson or Lang Lang.

But in what other ways can piano improve wellbeing?

Playing the piano yourself can be mindful – a way to focus and absorb your mind, even to drive away unwelcome thoughts. The sheer concentration required is helpful for this. Piano practice could be a bind and a duty, but it could also be a haven and a refuge for many people. It can order their thoughts and create a sense of balance and harmony. The piano is also ideal for improvisation, allowing the performer freedom to experiment and play with music and sound, which could be beneficial in a different way.

Improvisation can also help people with dementia, who may have learned to play the piano but may now be unable to follow sheet music or to remember once familiar pieces.

In the 19th century and on to the mid 20th century, many people in the UK owned pianos and played them regularly, with singing around the piano a family tradition. Before the days even of records, let alone CDs or streaming, this brought music into many homes. But pianos have since become an expensive luxury. Far fewer people now own a piano, so that ability to play or to hear live music at home has faded away. This matters, because it excludes lower and middle income households from music’s clear impact on wellbeing. Just as people on lower incomes will be less likely to afford music lessons, so owning a musical instrument has become another barrier to opportunity.

Initiatives opening up piano playing are great – like placing pianos in railway stations, shopping centres or other public places for anyone to sit down and play as they walk by. And more are needed.

Have you found that hearing or playing the piano boosts your wellbeing? It would be great if you’d like to share any thoughts or experiences in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Taking Part

Autumn is here again, and so too is the National Day of Arts in Care Homes (24 September) – an opportunity to highlight this important sector.

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This last crazy 18 months, the media has turned its attention to care homes more than it has for many years. There’s been empathy with residents unable to go out during the pandemic or to see family and friends, as if their isolation came to embody all our experiences of lockdown. There have been controversies over government policy in the early days of the pandemic, and more recently over staff vaccination. There’s also the debate over long-needed reforms to the care sector. And of course there have been many sad losses, as care home residents have been some of the most likely to succumb to Covid. Throughout all this, activity providers within care homes have gone on creating imaginative ways for residents to spend time.

Technology helped during lockdown (as it helped us all) and it will go on helping. Once again many homes have now opened their doors again to singers, entertainers and other outside activity providers. But arts within the home or day centre also remain central.

It’s great to see and hear how arts help draw residents together, open up conversations and boost mood. They focus on living in the moment, which is particularly important for people who have dementia and may struggle with past or future. Arts absorb people’s minds for a time. Many activities can be connected to events in the calendar, like Remembrance Day or sporting events, so they help create a structure for residents’ lives through the year.

It’s the participatory element in arts in care homes which I think is so important. When many residents have become or are too ill, frail or disabled to do most practical tasks, the opportunity to create or to sing is all the more precious. Maybe this is particularly true with art and craft, which are all about experimenting, exploring and freedom. This is helpful when residents all have different needs and abilities, as activities can be flexible to involve as many people as possible. Art and craft are also all about bright colours and different materials, important sensory stimuli.

This year I’ve marked the National Day of Arts in Care Homes by producing an activity ideas resource which has been requested by 120 care homes and facilities across the UK. As Medley focuses on combining art, music and nature for wellbeing, the resource has suggestions for music and songs to listen to, ideas of ways to connect with nature, and three art & craft activities, all on the one theme – movement and dance, in line with the Year of Moving And Grooving campaign of the National Association of Activity Providers, who run the National Day. And this is just one of so many different ways people are marking the Day.

The Year of Moving And Grooving is a vital campaign to promote physical activity in care homes. But I think the focus on movement also highlights how the arts open up life and free people as they use their imaginations. Music, art, dance, drama can all transport us to different places, while they also ground us to enjoy the present.

It would be great if you’d like to share any thoughts or experiences on arts in care homes in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A year since I first set up Medley to share art, music and nature for wellbeing, I thought I would look back over the last twelve months – and ahead to what might come next.

Integral to Medley is combining three different ways to boost wellbeing, that is, music, nature and art. Balancing the three areas is an opportunity and a challenge. In this first year, art has dominated – simply because I paint and draw and so I can lead on this myself. The 3 art for wellbeing projects I’ve run so far have focused on nature themes (birds and plants) so nature has also featured here. And maybe where I’ve balanced the three areas the most is in the Creative Ideas I produce regularly: suggestions of songs and music to listen to, art & craft ideas and ways to connect with nature, all on one theme each time – from Outer Space to the Olympics! The Medley blog has also covered the three areas equally.

What have I learned so far? Arts for wellbeing is so diverse, as needs and models differ hugely. There’s a lot of creativity going on in care homes, with people using imaginative ways to involve residents who may be disabled or frail. In the wider community many people respond to the idea of arts and nature for wellbeing, but may struggle to find time, motivation or confidence to take part regularly. But those who do can see art, music and nature absorb them, focus and clear their minds.

So I’ve been thinking back over this year. I’m so enjoying this new journey, getting to know new people, new creativity and new opportunities. But I need too to look ahead. What comes next?

When I told a charity founder (for whom I used to volunteer) that I was setting up Medley, he advised me to be flexible, to be prepared to adapt as I see how people react and respond to what I do. I’ve found that really helpful. Going with the flow doesn’t come naturally to me, I like to feel I have a plan. But I’m experimenting!

At the moment I’m running a longer art for wellbeing project, a Birds A-Z Challenge, which is set to run until January. I’ve also just sent out resource ideas to care homes for the National Day of Arts In Care Homes. One priority for the next year has to be to develop Medley’s music side more, as there’s such scope always for music to boost wellbeing. I’d also like to try reaching support groups for people facing particular issues, maybe hearing and sight loss, or to explore art for wellbeing for particular mental health issues like OCD or eco grief.

There are other questions as we all adjust to life post lockdown. What impact will the return to in-person groups and events have on online initiatives? Will people who turned to creativity or reconnected with nature in lockdown continue as life speeds up again? One certainty I feel is that arts and nature for wellbeing will only go on growing in new and different ways.

Thank you so much to all those who have supported Medley this first year with your encouragement and enthusiasm and by taking part in projects. Here’s to the next year!

If you would like to share any responses or ideas then do post in in Medley’s Facebook group. Thank you! https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Immerse Yourself

With International Forest Bathing Day falling on 12 September, I thought I would explore this intriguing idea, which for many people has become a way to improve wellbeing.

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The expression “forest bathing” is memorable and striking, but could also be confusing. Not only is there no need to get wet, but you don’t even have to be in a forest. The expression is used to cover different ways of connecting with nature and the outdoors. Thinking about bathing, I think of words like cleansing, immersive and soaking. So maybe this is an opportunity to feel your mind “cleansed” as you “immerse” yourself in the natural world, and “soak in” the sights and sounds of a forest, a field or a single city tree. Unlike a shower, where the focus is on speed, bathing is more about slowing down and going deeper, absorbing: as is forest bathing as a form of nature connection.

And why forest bathing? Forests do have a particular place in popular imagination. They are hushed, places of stillness, a world of their own. They enfold you in their shade. So again there’s the idea of an immersive experience of nature – but as we know, that’s in no way limited to forests themselves. I used to walk regularly in a wood. There was a hush, a feeling of being enclosed, away from the open fields which surrounded the wood. Walking there regularly I got to see it in all different moods and times of year. But now that I live nowhere near a wood or forest, I still immerse myself in nature all the time.

Founded two years ago, the Forest Bathing Institute is working to develop forest bathing in the UK: running forest bathing gatherings at places like Leith Hill, Kew Gardens and the RSPB Sandy reserve, and training people to become forest bathing guides themselves. Another important aspect of their work is cooperating with six UK universities on research into the impact of forest bathing. Lived experience and testimonials can be powerful, but assessment, monitoring of measurable impacts, is needed if forest bathing is to gain the recognition and funds it deserves. To this end, the UK’s first peer-reviewed research paper into forest bathing’s health benefits has recently been published. It reveals clear impacts on mood, emotions and also heart rate.

And forest bathing is growing rapidly. Organisations like the National Trust & Forestry England promote and explore forest bathing. Many Forest School programmes in different locations draw on forest bathing. With forest bathing videos on You Tube, you don’t even have to be in nature – instead you can try immersing yourself in the natural world from your desk or chair.

The more forest bathing grows and the more research is done, the more questions will be answered. I wonder if people who live in urban areas benefit most from forest bathing, as a welcome contrast to their everyday? I wonder if forest and woodland will be proven to have a stronger impact than other natural settings?

Thinking of forest bathing reminded me of the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral in Bedfordshire: trees planted to form the shape of a built Christian cathedral. As in a built cathedral, this becomes a reflective, contemplative space, somewhere to think what matters.

Do you have any experiences of forest bathing to share, or thoughts or questions? It would be great if you’d like to share in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Another View

Creativity and a feeling of community are central to Medley’s goals, so it’s no wonder that recently hearing of a project called Creative Communities: New Perspectives sparked my imagination. I decided to learn more about one of the lead organizations, Look Again.

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Mindful photography is the focus of Look Again’s work and growing impact. Founded back in 2012, the organization has recently seen demand surge, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Look Again’s mindful photography courses and programmes draw together photography, connecting with nature, and mindfulness, to boost wellbeing. And moving online during the pandemic has opened up new opportunities. While workshops planned for venues like the Slimbridge WWT nature reserve have been suspended, online courses have enabled Look Again to widen its reach, with people taking part in other countries.

The next of Look Again’s 4 week online courses, Reframe Your Now, starts next week, on 10 September. These courses provide an introduction to mindful photography, an opportunity to explore and to experience how photography can improve resilience, motivation and focus. Look Again says they are for individuals and also for practitioners, for example people working in wellbeing or mindfulness.

What stands out again and again in my own art for wellbeing work through Medley is the way art helps people by absorbing and focusing their minds – and clearly this is integral to Look Again’s mindful photography as well. It’s a thread running through quotes and testimonials from their participants. This also reminded me of my own sense of the importance of observation, of looking, noticing, really seeing what is there. It’s all too easy to walk on by, to ignore, not to be open to what we see. If I remember to observe, I get far more from life. For me, painting and drawing are ways to interact with nature, motivating me in turn to look and see. For many people, photography can create that interaction.

So what about the project which caught my eye, “Creative Communities: New Perspectives”? This was a partnership programme in Gloucester, sharing arts for wellbeing with people particularly impacted by the pandemic, from family carers to NHS staff. Diverse organizations came together, like Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester Carers Hub and Gloucester Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. The programme focused on mindful photography (led by Look Again) and on drama. Photographs by participants were on display in the Cathedral over the summer, and will soon feature in an exhibition in Gloucester’s Royal Hospital. Participants have share ddifferent aspects of the programme’s positive impct on them, building trust and confidence, forming community and boosting wellbeing through lockdown.

There are other facets to Look Again’s work, like a Wellbeing In The Workplace programme and schools work. They also run interactive talks and take photography commissions. Look Again’s model and impact have roots in founder Ruth Davey’s background working in community, business & international development, but also in her own experience of drawing on mindfulness and photography to recover from anxiety and depression.

You might like to learn more about Look Again’s work, get involved and maybe sign up for a Reframe Your Now course, by going to www.look-again.org

It would be great if you’d like to share any thoughts on mindfulness and photography – and any images! – in Medley’s Facebook group. Thank you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Sea And Shore

Nature is so diverse that saying “nature improves wellbeing” could be too vague. Maybe all nature has one common impact in that it is different, “other”, so it opens up new ways of looking at life and reconnects us with the elements. But in many ways one impact will be totally distinct from another. Time spent in woodland or by a river will obviously differ from time spent by the sea. Then again, time spent by the sea will differ from time spent at sea, sailing, or time in the sea, swimming.

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Watching the sea from land can be calming, restorative, or exciting. Tides ebb & flow, waves crest & foam, water laps on a shore. The sea will have different impacts on us in different conditions, still or stormy. Some people like walking along the shore once the tide has gone out, seeing what is left behind. Cliffs, rock pools, sand dunes, all can be distinct environments to explore. Even indoors, inland, we can still experience the sea. Online or in books, marine photography allows us to glimpse the wonders of the deep. Sea sounds recorded underwater using hydrophones and played online can evoke the ocean – whale song is probably the most famously therapeutic. Listening to music inspired by the sea (maybe folk songs or classical music) is another way to connect. Art and craft are a way to respond as well: painting can recreate a moment, while some people enjoy crafying with driftwood and objects they find while out beachcombing.

The sea can be experienced across the senses, which is known to have a more positive impact on wellbeing. You can feel a sea breeze or ocean spray, see light on the water, smell the sea air and hear the tide or the waves. I”ve heard people share different ways they find the sea helpful – walking, sitting, listening, swimming, even diving.

Maybe the sea’s own impact is more diverse than other impacts of nature. The sea is a place of mystery, of unfathomable deeps, of unknowns and darkness – but also a place of life and colour. It is home to so many contrasting life forms, from the immense to the microscopic. The sea’s mystery can also be menacing and you need to beware. But it can be partly its power which enthralls people and boosts wellbeing. Such a vast and different world can sometimes help us see our own struggles in a new light.

One book which struck me was “Against The Flow” by Dee Caffari: an account of becoming the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents, in 2006. Along the way the book explores Dee’s responses to this experience, the highs and lows and the extremes of nature: sailing across the remoteness of the Southern Ocean; extreme storms; threatening ice; but also vivid sunsets; reflections on the water; pods of dolphins; and the clarity of the night sky. The voyage tested Dee’s powers of endurance to the utmost, while allowing her times of sheer wellbeing. A solo circumnavigayion may be an unusually extreme way to connect with the sea, but it’s an insight into the power of the oceans.

Would any of you like to share what impact the sea has on your own or others’ wellbeing? It would be great if you would like to share on Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.

Going With The Flow

As overthinking has worsened during pandemic and lockdowns, so this may have contributed to more people experiencing OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Art therapy can be helpful for people who have OCD – there’s great scope for creativity to play a part here.

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Integral to OCD are what are known as intrusive thoughts. These might also be seen as unwelcome, and can be irrational. They can lead to obsessive, set or ritualistic patterns of behaviour: maybe an obsession with being clean and tidy, or only walking on one side of a pavement, or counting to 10 before opening a door. Art’s power to absorb the mind is central to its positive impact on so many people’s wellbeing. Focusing on painting or drawing can drive other thoughts away. So clearly this can be helpful specifically for people with OCD.

It’s important to note here that art therapy is a specific and distinct clinical practice, first seen in the UK sixty or seventy years ago. The British Association of Art Therapy or BAAT regulates practitioners in this country. It may well be that other, non-therapy uses of art for wellbeing could also help people with OCD, but this would be different.

So how else can art therapy help OCD? Many mental health issues seem to have roots in a need for control: a feeling of helplessness, a sense that life is out of control, and a need to counterbalance this by controlling what we can. Eating disorders can stem from this, as can OCD, although obviously everyone is different. One of the ways in which art therapy is thought to help OCD is by showing people they can control some elements of life, even in the midst of intrusive thoughts. But it can also be about letting go of the need to control.

Spontaneity and freedom can be encouraged by art. While people with OCD might get overwhelmed as they sink into obsessive thoughts, experimenting with art and going with the flow can open up a different perspective. One example I’ve heard quoted is not obsessing over a blot or error in your drawing but going on creating. This can be transferable: so that people don’t react so strongly in life either. Instead of obsession being their default position, they can become more flexible.

This reflects the importance art therapy places on the actual creating, rather than the art produced. While the artwork itself may turn out to be striking or beautiful, this is not the goal. It’s focusing on creativity, experimenting, using line, colour or form.

Expressing feelings creatively, maybe on paper, with apaintbrush or pencil, or through modelling, can also be therapeutic as an alternative to verbalising thoughts or fears. While art therapists use practical creativity during sessions, art also becomes a tool for people to use themselves at home, as a way to calm their anxiety or obsessive thoughts at other times.

Art therapy is usually seen as complementing other forms of treatment for OCD, rather than being the main focus. Sometimes it is used within ERP (Exposure & Response Prevention) or CBT. Much will depend on the person’s own situation and any root causes of their OCD. But art opens up new possibilities.

Do you have any experiences or thoughts you might like to share on this? It would be great if you would like to share on Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.

And All That Jazz

Hearing a tribute the other evening to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (marking 120 years since he was born and 50 years since he died), I thought I would focus this blog post on jazz and how it can help health and wellbeing. It’s another in my occasional series of posts on different music genres’ impacts, from musicals to ballet and folk.

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Jazz has so expanded and grown across the world over the yesrs that many people have explored its wider impacts, and uncovered different positive responses. Just one point however – obviously not everyone responds positively to jazz! Maybe more than most genres, some people find jazz disturbing. But then you can never win ’em all.

Jazz has its roots in pain and struggle: it grew from the blues, which began amidst slaves and former slaves in the USA. Louis Armstrong’s own early years were spent in poverty, and he only learned to play music while detained as a boy for “delinquency”. So it seems to follow that so much jazz expresses a need for freedom and joy.

Serotonin is a relaxing hormone, known to make people feel calm, even serene. Studies have found that hearing jazz music can release serotonin in the brain. I can imagine thar: I remember hearing the sounds of a jazz trumpet drifting through an open window in a city one summer’s day, and a feeling of “all’s well with the world”. So jazz has been found to have a measurable impact in reducing stress and anxiety.

William Klemm Senior, a US professor of neuroscience, has written about jazz’s role in reducing stress, but also about other impacts. He finds jazz to be a form of “mental enrichment” for people, boosting their brains’ “biological capabilities” so that they have improved memory and ability to learn.

Klemm has also written about the impact of playing jazz as well as listening. Jazz’s distinct features, like improvisation, blues notes and unusual time signatures, make jazz playing engage the musician’s brain in different ways to other music, and this can be very positive.

Recovery from stroke is one specific situation where jazz can be helpful. Research has found that listening to music (jazz as well as other) during the 3 months immediately following a stroke can improve memory, focus and concentration, and can also boost mood.

Maybe jazz owes some of its power to the sheer diversity of styles within jazz. The jazz tradition spans so many movements, from early blues, New Orleans jazz and gospel, through dance orchestras, big bands, swing and bebop to neo-bop jazz and the new styles that continue to evolve. Different instruments also impact on different people, as do particular musicians and singers. Gregory Porter, who presented the tribute I heard on BBC Radio 2 (Louis Armstrong Remembered By Gregory Porter, 1 August) highlighted the way Armstrong’s “growling” voice complemented Ella Fitzgerald’s clear, light tone when they sang duets together, as in Summertime from Porgy and Bess.

Known as the first major jazz virtuoso, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong in some way embodies jazz’s enormous power over listeners and players alike, fifty years on from his death.

Does jazz enhance your life? It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts or experiences – or favourite songs or pieces of music – on Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.