Mindfulness through Music in Law School

music mindfulness playlist

Today, we welcome back Gabriella Martin, 2L guest writer, to share tips for effectively utilizing one of everyone’s favorite items in your law school survival toolbox: music.

As a 1L, I was completely overwhelmed. In all the chaos of adapting to law school, I quickly forgot all the study skills and mindfulness techniques that I had learned over the years. Now settled in, my 2L year has been all about reclaiming those forgotten skills. Slowly but surely, I am learning that my undergrad classes and past experiences have given me a unique perspective from which to tackle, understand and convey the law.

One of these unique perspectives is my background in music. Coming from a family of musicians and being a musician myself has instilled in me an overwhelming—borderline obsessive—appreciation of music. Music is a part of who I am; it’s in my blood. Music can help calm me down. Music can help energize me. Music can keep me focused.

But I know that I’m not alone in this experience. They say that music is the universal language, affecting most everyone in some way regardless of where they’re from. And call me crazy, but I believe this universal language can help you get through law school, too. Here are four steps to making music a part of your law school survival kit.

Step 1: Discover Your Own Music Profile

In order to shift from merely listening to music to using it as a survival tool, you have to figure out which types of music help you do what. For example, what type of music gives you laser focus? Maybe it’s the inspiring crescendos of a film score or the epic rock and roll feel of a Fall Out Boy song. What type of music instantly relaxes you? For me, it’s the throwback jazz sounds of Dave Brubeck and Herbie Hancock. For you, jazz may knock you out faster than Ny-Quil. That’s totally okay.

The point is that different types of music affect each of us differently; there’s no right or wrong way to be affected by any particular type of music. But the key to using music successfully in law school is to identify how different types of music affect to you.

In addition to the questions above, ask yourself what type of music: (1) gets you out of a funk or cheers you up, (2) helps wake you up, or (3) breaks through your writer’s block. These questions, of course, aren’t exhaustive; they’re just a place to help you get started on your journey of music discovery.

Step 2: Organize Your Music

After discovering your so-called music profile, the next step is to organize that music. Whether the organization comes in the form of a Spotify or iTunes playlist or Pandora stations, music as a survival tool works best when you have a distinct “channel” for each way music affects you (i.e. relax, focus, wake-up, etc.). This organization is no different than creating a workout playlist for cardio or strength training.

I, myself, am a die-hard Pandora user so my organization breaks down like this: an indie rap station for intense writing sessions, a handful of jazz stations for clearing my head, and of course my Broadway show tunes station for an afternoon or Monday morning pick-me-up. Thanks to modern technology, I can flip to any of these or even create a new one as my mood changes or as the challenges of law school change.

Step 3: Focus on Your Headphones

So, you may have your music survival tools all ready to go, but did you stop to think how you’re going to listen to that music? Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the standard issue smartphone headphones—I actually relied upon them for the longest time. But I have to tell you that since getting a pair of old school noise-cancelling headphones, my life has been forever changed.

I love these headphones because they allow you to create your own little bubble no matter where you are — a little bubble that’s perfect for studying. And, again, thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to go top-of-the-line to get good quality. You can usually find noise-cancelling headphones for less than $30 at tech stores like Best Buy or even in places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

Step 4: Remember to Use It

Finally, and most importantly, you have to remember to think of music as another tool in your law school survival kit. In order to be effective, it can’t just be something that’s there – an app just quietly living on your phone or computer. If music works for you—if it calms, energizes, or helps you focus—you have to use it.

And I know that with so many things flying at you in law school it’s difficult to remember those things that can help us. But one of the key elements of mindfulness is to be aware of ourselves, of our own self-care and what helps us succeed, because at the end of the day, we are the ones who know what we need to get through.


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About Gabriella Martin

Gabriella Martin is a law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law in the Intellectual Property concentration. Gabriella graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in English Literature which furthered a passion for creative writing and analysis. Gabriella is involved in several ABA committees and numerous student organizations--including a 1L mentoring program. When she is not writing for Law School Toolbox or The Girl's Guide to Law School, Gabriella can be found catching up on TV shows, discovering new music, and going on adventures, both big and small.

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