Lessons in the Lessons: Music and Psychology

Music is the answer

There are lessons within the lessons taught in biology to literature to philosophy classes at Western Oregon University. And each lesson can provide us with guidance, insight and knowledge during this uncertain time.

Today at WOU asked faculty to share with students and employees some perspective from their subject matter to help us navigate our new normalcy since the coronavirus (COVID-19) has currently disrupted the patterns of our daily lives.

Their words can help us to chart a course to gracefully rise to the challenge and learn valuable lessons from this moment in history. Here is part two of a three-part series with interviews from James Reddan and Jessica Murfin.


A large group of singers gather for a photo.
Western Oregon University believes music has a way to bring people together.

Dr. James Reddan said music has always had a way of bringing people together and building the social capital of communities across the globe.

“Singing alone or together, physically or virtually, has proven our resilience as a society to come together in times of great stress, sorrow and uncertainty,” said Reddan, an assistant music professor and director of choral activities.

Reddan shared that singing strengthens the immune system, is a workout, improves your poster, helps with sleep, is a natural antidepressant, lowers stress levels and improves mental alertness.

“Sing in the shower, sing in the car, sing like no one is listening,” he said. “As we have time to reflect and think, consider taking a deep breath and sing – not to perform – but for your own physical and mental fortitude.”


An instructor in the Behavioral Sciences Division, Jessica Murfin teaches psychology and organizational leadership courses.

Red, white and black balloons with WOU
Western Oregon University students are encouraged to focus on their psychological capital to rise to the challenges of today.

From a positive psychology perspective, she encourages people to focus on their psychological capital, which uses the acronym HERO or Hope, Optimism, Resilience and Efficacy.

“We can engage with a sense of hope by setting goals for this time such as how to handle obstacles or things we would like to accomplish under the current circumstances and motivating each other to achieve these goals,” she said. “We can tap into our sense of self-efficacy that we can do what it takes to make a positive difference and engage in preventive actions such as proper hygiene and social distancing to limit the spread of this disease.”

She encourages people to practice resilience by being strong in the face of stress, engaging in self-care and supporting each other during this difficult time so that we emerge on the other side of this stronger and more connected than ever.

“Finally, we can practice optimism that there will be a resolution sooner than later, a light at the end of what may currently seem like a long, dark tunnel, and that everyone involved is doing everything they can for a successful outcome to this pandemic,” she said.

Let’s keep the lessons going. If you would like to share your thoughts, please email Kristine Thomas.

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