You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. I call my granddaughter and hairstylist, Danielle, My Sunshine because she epitomizes this little tune. When I sing that little ditty my mood lifts. When I play music in my head, pound it out on a drum, or listen or clap or dance to it, I am changed.
As John R. Levine wrote:
Music can lead people to greater health and happiness.
I feel uplifted when I hear my hubby pluck on his guitar, sing Sunday mornings Let there be love on earth and let it begin with me, and dance to Beatles’ tunes. Three of my favorites are All You Need is Love, We Can Work it Out, and With a Little Help From My Friends. Even the act of writing the lyrics brings a smile!
After my mother died, I recall times I wanted to listen to melancholy music that would help bring on the tears, like the flood gates opening.
You see, music can trigger emotions from tender sadness to red splashed joy and from high energy to serene calm. There is music to excite us, music to soothe us, music to anger us, and music to bring our sexuality alive. But it is up to us to find which music triggers the emotional state we desire.Yes, we can intentionally use music to shift our mood and enhance our well-being.
How might you do that? Well, music therapist and educator, Jennifer Buchanan’s book, can help.
In Tune In, A Music Therapy Approach to Life, she provides a simple, yet a profound process for shifting your emotional state. It works well as a stress reduction technique.
Here is my understanding of the basic steps.
Four Mood Shifting Steps
- Explore a variety of music, including songs from memorable moments.
- Notice what you feel when you are engaged with different songs.
- Choose the song (as I intuitively did with You Are My Sunshine) that uplifts your mood.
- Later when you experience a discomforting feeling you can intentionally trigger uplift with your song.
Buchanan also proposes that you can better manage your distress by using music. It is a matter of deliberately choosing your music diet or library. Become discerning when you download your iTunes selections. Ask yourself, What memory do I want to stimulate in my brain that will change what I am thinking and feeling? Play music in a mindful way.
This process is common to lovers who have their song. My hubby Les and I were 17 years old, like lost baby chicks out of their nest, when we first danced and he apprehensively sang in my ear Unchained Melody. I melted. Forty-plus years later at the Rocky Mountain Couples Retreat we dance, he sings in my ear. I melt.
Unchained Melody triggers in Les and me the feel good, cuddly and bonding hormones of oxytocin. It changes us. As Buchanan says:
I believe the real value of music is determined by what it does to the person experiencing it. Our connection to music is intensely personal. No one can tell you what music to listen to, or play, to help you get to where you want to be.
Dance to Music
If you prefer to dance to music, check out therapist Gabrielle Roth’s work. She created Five Life Rhythms that has turned into a movement of people dancing to five primal beats. You end up remembering joyful and sorrowful times and then dancing them out and into another emotional state. It is like a roller coaster ride going up with feelings of apprehension and excitement and going down with feelings of weird fright. I have attended a number of Roth-inspired dance events. They can be exhilarating.
You might want to make music with a drum. If you live in Calgary and area please consider checking out Circles of Rhythm evenings.
Five Ways to Play Music as a Mood Altering Tool
- For one week really tune in to what you hear. Give your ears some attention. Even notice the pitch of different people’s’ voices.
- Notice how you feel and what memories are aroused when you hear different sounds and songs.
- Begin to deliberately choose to play music to support how you want to feel. You might want to discover some new songs and rhythms.
- Watch Benjamin Zander’s passionate TedTalk on classical music.
- Read Buchanan’s book, Tune In, or her 2021 book, Wellness, Wellplayed: The Power of a Playlist and watch her on YouTube.
Enjoy how you personally and intentionally use, make and play music.
PS: Jennifer Buchanan’s JB Music Therapy, serves thousands of hurting Calgarians.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.