When you repeatedly experience something, you get used to it.
For example, if I want to learn a particular technique on my guitar, I practice it. By practicing, I repeat doing the same thing over and over.
But I have to be careful what I’m getting used to. If I practice sloppily, with mistakes and unevenness all over, that’s what I’m getting used to. If I practice with tension and excessive force, that’s what I’m getting good at. In either of those cases, repetition/practice does not make perfect. In fact, the longer I do it, the worse I become.
If I’m bored and frustrated often, that’s what I’m getting used to. My worldview would be pessimistic and I react grumpily to life events. The state of joy or hopefulness would feel like a foreign concept. On a rare occasion where I experience a more pleasant state of mind, I’d tell myself that it won’t last. Feeling positive is not the norm.
As I noticed this underlying truth about life, I started changing my approach to how to change it. Instead of seeking to create events that will make me feel good, I started simply practicing feeling how I want to feel.
How can I feel positive when I see little to feel positive about? Through my imagination, and experiencing art — specifically, music. If I want to feel inspired, I listen to inspiring music. The more often I do so, the easier it becomes for me to get into that frame of mind.
I noticed, though, that if I play happy music when I’m feeling anything but, my mind can’t travel the distance and feel that. I have to start with songs that reflect where I am first such as the feeling of angst and pent-up rage. The difference between just feeling those feelings on your own and feeling it with music is that music becomes your conduit. When I’m wallowing in my own feelings I’d think all kinds of conflicting thoughts, such as how negative I’m being, and how I should do something positive. When the music is on such resistance disappears, because I connect to the feelings in the songs. Having the song connect to my so-called “negative” feelings validate them and accept them.
This is similar to relaxing my hands when practicing my guitar. When freed from excessive force and tension my body can finally learn how to do it properly. My feelings flow freely and then I will be in a better state for a shift.
That’s when I turn on more uplifting music.
So in short, you can use music to “practice” feeling the way you want to feel. The more time you spend feeling the way you want to, the more familiar and normal it seems, and it becomes easier for you to feel that way in life in general. You don’t change how you feel by changing your life — you change your life by first changing how you feel.
Try it out, let me know how this concept applies in your life. It’s still a new approach I’m exploring myself, but I am very encouraged by the results I’m seeing so far. I hope it’ll work for you, as well.