I’ve always known that music is a powerful setter of mood and it can help you get in the mood for how you want to feel. A well-known application of this concept is the idea of “workout music.” You put your headphones on to go out for a run or blast some hard rock/metal when you’re lifting weights, or go to Zumba and dance to music!
But what about general happiness and contentment? If you are struggling with pervasive frustration, boredom, or uninspired-ness, can you use music to feel how you want to feel?
To explore this concept, I’ve been experimenting with taking 10-15 minutes each day to listen to music for its mood. I have playlists organized by moods and pick something like “heartwarming” and “inspirational.” If the weather is nice I go for a walk with earphones on.
I noticed that there are days when my mind immediately engages with the music and go where it takes me. I come out of my session feeling energized.
Then other days my mind feels more stuck and stubborn. It’s engaged with some stories and my mind drifts off to wallow in those stories and ignore what’s coming through my ears.
These stories are signs that there are some subconscious beliefs or stuck emotions polluting my headspace. I can’t see clearly, and what I do see is not true representation of reality, when I’m looking through distorted piece of glass.
During those moments I find myself resisting the outside stimuli that should be more affecting. If I hear happy music when I’m feeling frustrated, the happy music can feel grating and annoying. It’s as if my mind decided that frustration is my overall tint of my view and no matter what I see/hear I’ll receive it as more frustration.
When I find myself in this type of situation, I have to accept it and acknowledge it. By that, I stop forcing myself to listen to “heartwarming” playlist and switch to “vulnerable” or “tragic.”
You’d think that feeding into whatever “negative” state your mind is will only empower and enhance that mood, and that’s true — but only momentarily. Music to me works like a purifier of feelings, in that when you listen to music that contains so-called “negative” emotions, instead of helping me get more solidly stuck there, it helps dislodge the stuck-ness. When I find a song that connects to how I’m really feeling inside (and usually duller feelings like frustration is a mask above deeper fear or anger) it allows my stuck mind to feel moved. For a moment a purer, stronger version of that underlying feeling comes out, but after that, I feel more open to let the music steer me.
A mind that’s consumed with a story is like a sulky child who refuses to engage with something that usually is uplifting, because s/he is so inundated with her/his story of victimization. In order to transition this mind from stuck to moving, you have to first engage it. Not by forcing it to where it’s supposed to be, but by first presenting something that connects where it is. You can’t tell your mind to teleport to point B when it’s stuck in point A. You have to go meet it at point A and use slower, more gradual mode of transportation to get it going toward point B.
That is a key concept in using music to regulate your mood and get yourself to feel how you want to feel. You can’t force it to feel what it’s not willing to. You have to first connect to how it’s feeling, without condemning or denying its current experience. Then once engaged, you can start to guide it closer to where you want it to go.