Music Therapy

A lot can be said about the impact music has on our lives.  It’s a huge part of our culture. It connects us. To the artists who make the music, to our friends and family, and even to strangers. There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic and looking over to see another driver rocking out to the same song as you. It makes me want to get out of the car and dance.

Many of life’s happy moments are tied to, and sometimes a result of, music. We could literally go on and on about the endless ways in which music affects us. But if we scale it back, and look at it on an individual level, music is also a fairly worthwhile way to gauge our own ups and downs in life. Our most played song lists tend to mirror the thoughts that go on inside our heads. The thoughts that no one else gets to know about, unless you choose to share (or blog about) them. We use music as a crutch, to make us feel better. And even though depressing music usually only instigates and prolongs a bad mood, it is sometimes exactly what we need to work through these thoughts. Getting lost in a good playlist can be as therapeutic as sitting down with a good friend and a bottle of wine.

Earlier today I found myself at a crossroads. Well into my second hour of listening exclusively to Ben Folds, it dawned on me that I must not be in the best of moods. I was enjoying what I was listening to and his gloomy, yet somehow hopeful, tunes were indeed just what I needed. But I was about to go into a meeting where I needed to be a happy go lucky manager. The person who motivates others and pretends like the work we do is important. Not because I enjoy being deceitful, but because at the end of the day productivity is directly tied to my employees’, and therefore my, attitude. I was reveling in the melancholy, but Ben Folds just wasn’t going to cut it. I had to do something quickly to improve my mood and, since I’m all out of happiness cards, my only choice was to change the music.

I listened to this song. It was a simple, obvious, choice. I only had about 3 minutes and I needed to be happy. Judge me if you’d like, but listening to it turned my day, quite possibly my week, around. I went into the meeting with what I hope was contagious enthusiasm. But I don’t feel like I forced myself to be happy, that’s never a good idea. Forcing ourselves into things that don’t quite fit will inevitably lead to unhappiness. Whether it’s a pair of jeans or a relationship. But I did make an intentional decision to change my own mood, by listening to a song that causes me to be genuinely happy. Making that decision, the conscious effort, is sometimes half the battle. And then knowing what actually makes you happy can be a whole different fight.

Even though I’m not having an excess of happy moments on this particular day it is reassuring to know there will always be something, as simple as a Christmas song in September, to turn my downs into ups. Life is complicated. But sometimes being, at least temporarily, happy can be really simple; just change the music. And the next time someone asks me how I’ve been, someone that actually wants an honest response, I might look at my most listened to songs before I answer.

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