COLUMN: The Finer Things
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 01:09
Bright and warm, the sun’s afternoon rays filtered in through my two bedroom windows, making the scattered specks of dust floating throughout the air shimmer like flecks of fairy glitter. I clenched my groggy eyes shut and put my pillow over my limp head. Birds sang in chorus, tweeting mellifluous melodies, which eventually made their way to my hostile, unwelcoming ears.
It was a beautiful August day, but to me, it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to get out of bed, despite the fact that it was nearly 2:30 in the afternoon. I was in a bad mood—and that was that. A little sunshine and a bit of chirping couldn’t and wouldn’t change anything. I was irrevocably frustrated and angry.
For the entirety of the day—after I finally emerged from my impenetrable fortress of comforters, blankets, and sheets—I moped around the house like a troll, hiding from my mother, my cell phone, and even my six-pound dog. Interaction, of any kind, was not an option.
I’ve always been the kind of person to believe in introspection and correction. So, even though I was inexplicably annoyed, I tried to use my rational faculties to evaluate and reorient my volatile emotional state. I did everything that I could possibly think of, from eating ice cream to exercising excessively. Nothing worked. My reason had failed me.
At 7:45 in the evening, I was sprawled on my couch—my running sneakers were still on my feet and a sticky spoon was still in my hand. I had finally resigned and accepted that until some mysterious part of me decided otherwise, I was pretty much stuck—because if endorphins and calories couldn’t turn around my mood, then probably, nothing else could.
Without moving from my languorous position, I craned my arm toward the coffee table and grabbed my MacBook, planning on relentlessly refreshing my Facebook feed for the next several hours. But instead of opening the Internet, my computer intuitively began playing music from my iTunes Library—namely from my “Happy/Summer” playlist. (How perfect, I know.)
A spin or two through some Paradise Valley, some Jack Johnson, and some Jason Mraz, and I was, magically, an entirely different person—or better yet, I was, once again, a person, because a few hours earlier, I was just a pathetically terrifying creature, a sad excuse for a human being.
I wish I had realized sooner that a couple acoustic tunes could successfully turn my frown upside down—I would’ve listened to “I’m Yours” and “Wildfire” on repeat long before I made my way to the bottom of my Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie. In retrospect, though, it’s funny, because the relationship between music and mood is actually a rather obvious one—one that I should have recognized—one that has been accepted (though not entirely understood) for quite some time.
Philosophers, psychologists, and even marketing experts have contributed significant findings to this growing body of research, suggesting a variety of conclusions. But what they all seem to agree upon is that the connection between music and emotions is a powerful one. To my own benefit, and to that of the greater world, really, I discovered and utilized this knowledge first hand, transforming myself from a grumpy hermit to a friendly individual who likes to laugh and smile.
The key to using songs effectively to alternate the way you feel is a little more complex than you’d think, however—just tuning into the radio may not do the trick. For it to work, you need to listen to a collection of tracks that’s lyrically positive, that’s nostalgically connected to pleasant memories, and that’s aesthetically enjoyable. For me, mellow, singer-songwriter artists meet these qualifications, but for someone else, it could be Bob Dylan or maybe even Snoop Lion—music is as particular as the emotions inspired by it.
So, the next time you’re feeling down and blue or the next time you feel like closing the curtains on the sun and the birds, try some music therapy. But, if you determine that even that’s a failure, just go back to the pint of ice cream—it may not make you feel better, but it sure is delicious, regardless of what your mood is.