Sometimes music is better than therapy.
Do you ever hear a song and think it’s speaking directly to you, or that it was solely written with your life in mind?
Whether it’s the gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, sad song you hear during a bad breakup or that jump on the sofa “I can DO this” anthem that motivates you to meet a late night deadline, music reaches us and motivates us deep within.
Whether you love Taylor Swift, JayZ, One Republic, Metallica, or Mumford & Sons, it turns out that creating a “life soundtrack” actually improves your happiness, energy, outlook, and resilience.
You already know music makes you feel good and research explains why — with studies showing that music can regulate breathing, lower heart rates, decrease Cortisol stress responses, and more. But, the most astounding new evidence shows that we actually alter our genes when we listen to music, with increases occurring in the area of the brain responsible for improving mood, memory, learning, and basic brain function. (Interestingly, these are also genes that we share in common with songbirds!) It’s no wonder the tunes we love impact our life in such a compelling way!
I, for one, love music and not only do I rely on it to boost my mood, I’ve learned to trust song lyrics that find their way to me randomly. I’m not referring to the lyrics of favorite tunes, but rather songs that pop into our minds or we happen upon (on the radio, etc.) even when we don’t truly like them!
All of a sudden you hear a song (or snippet of one) and something about its lyrics just … resonates.
The words convey a deep wisdom just when we need that particular message most. Has that ever happened to you?
Music offers us glimpses at other possibilities, providing an unconventional source of meditative reflection. Sometimes those lyrics offer inspiration and encouragement, while other times those words offer a clear warning or advice about a problem.
Take full advantage of the healthy, healing influence (and guidance) music offers by adding music to normal parts of your day — when waking up, showering, driving, exercising, or simply walking … often when our body is easily occupied by routine or habitual motion, the creative mind receives the message and recognizes an invitation to act. Why? Because the subconscious mind focuses on images and metaphors, which songs bring to life, vividly.
Our subconscious latches onto concepts the conscious mind passes right over in the hustle of daily routine — so, whatever the subconscious notices warrants pausing and listening to.
Tune into your mood before turning up the volume on your favorite playlist to maximize the full impact of music therapy.
If you know you’re annoyed, let out anger by listening to Marilyn Manson’s “The Fight Song,” before transitioning to Katy Perry’s more motivational “Firework.” Feeling unconfident? Cue up Q Tip’s “Vivrant Thing” to get your swagger back before you sink into the arms of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”
Here’s how to have even more fun! Why not deliberately manipulate the metaphors and symbols of the subconscious through song? Instead of defaulting to your regular go-to playlist, chose a sequence of songs that moves you THROUGH your emotions, rather than keeping you stuck there. Gather tracks that match the following states of mind and emotions and then call on them when you need help staying on the path of creating the life experience that feels good to you:
- Choose a life anthem. Find a song that makes a bold, defining statement and declares to the world who you are currently.
- Choose a “making things happen” tune. This is the motivating song that gets you off the sofa and out the door for your daily exercise, or following through on steps that move you closer to your goals.
- Select a “soothe me” song. This includes lyrics that calm and center you when you’re headed to the dentist, need help falling asleep, or that calms you after disagreements with loved ones (or anyone).
- Settle on a “true to myself” tune! What lyrics elevate your energy when you need to shine your brightest? Surrounded by work, things to do, and other people, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are at your most basic. This song brings you back to you every time.
- Pick a “haters gonna hate” track. Some days are just hard and people bring you down. This is your go-to song that lets you feel the hurt, but also rise above it.
We all need a little help sometimes, keeping our energy positive or rebounding from a hard moment. Songwriters and musicians share their inspiration and talent with us, creating a common message for us to share collectively but also personalize.
You can, without a doubt, find the exact right words you need. So, utilize the wealth of music available and start strategically sound-tracking your life experience!