Using Music to Improve Your Mood

Music has been at the hub of depression and anxiety research for many years, resulting in studies substantiating what my stack of CD’s taught me today: music can drastically alter your mood, improve your cognitive outlook and even assist you in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

As the new year came into full swing, I experienced the inevitable upsurge in new attendees at the gym where I work out nearly every day.  The new individuals come in, trudge along on the treadmill for a few weeks, avoid the trainers and ultimately, many leave.  I have noticed a trend in the individuals that succeed in their new found desire to shed pounds and gain endurance.  Each of us exist in an a world of personal space, earphones attuned to an inspirational piece of music or even self help coaching.  In my world of post-depression workouts, I stream music that appeals to where I am in life, or more specifically, where I want to be.  The echoes of dance music stimulate the cells of my brain to encourage and equip my legs for that five mile run when all I’d prefer to do in the first quarter mile is go watch a movie or hang out with my family.  Instead, the beat and my feet both move on.  I tried a little science experiment on myself through forgetting my trusty, ever present I-appliance, and the net result?  I didn’t enjoy my workout with the same intensity, didn’t leave feeling pumped up and didn’t work as hard.  That  is hardly scientific evidence that will stop the medical community, but it tells me one thing for sure.  Music changes how I feel about life.

I’m currently enjoying the sound of local Indianapolis based artist Liz Janes and her new offering “Say Goodbye” from Asthmatic Kitty records.  I do this in part because Liz was kind enough to sing the set of her album for about sixty people last weekend at Luna in greater Broadripple; moreover because the song “I Don’t Believe In You” could very possibly be my life’s theme song.  I truly love the tune.  As I read and reflect in life, with this soulful collection in the background, I feel more confident to think through some of the tougher heartache that has befallen my self and my family this year.  In music, I find that I am able to soothe or engage the spirit.

That all being said, the converse is true…I can also sway my good judgement by listening to music that reminds me of a time or space in life that has gone into the past and should remain there.  Echoes of my lost loves throughout the past twenty years can be resurrected in songs.  I can convince myself through other’s lyrical ballads that I need to stay or go, call or not call, need or not need…each song from the writers’ perspective has to do with a situation in their life that may not reflect the reality of my own.  I see through my own set of lenses, and have my own circumstances.  Taking advice from music might direct you to a place in the soul’s emotional state that reason and reality cannot keep you.

It’s your choice what emotion you want to reflect in your person and in your life, just as it is your choice to live life authentically.  Music doesn’t change the reality that you live in – if you’re in love with the girl/boy, then you still will be even when the song about someone else ends.  It’s a good idea, I concluded at the end of my little research project, to really consider what the lyrics I am listening to say about me.  What does my genre say about me? Am I using them in a form of faith and worship, encouragement of emotion, avoidance of pain, retribution to someone that hurt me? Am I addressing my own felt needs or ignoring them? Am I using music to improve my situation or to under-gird my own anxiety and depression?  Am I making healthy choices in what I listen to, and what is my music choice saying to me?

Liz sings into my soul with her first track, and that is where I am in my life right now.  The song helps me not to hide from it, although my workout music drowns it out in tempo and in beat.  But at the end of the night and in the deep stillness of sleepless moments, the calming sound of it all tells me that none of us are truly alone, but we are connected by a common thread brought to life in a song.

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