“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ~ Albert Einstein
I was listening to a conversation between Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth on their podcast recently and they were talking about your “Happiness 911” song. They both offered their own happiness 911 song and are now compiling listener songs to create a playlist. The whole basis of the song choice is just as the name would imply – a song that instantly boosts your mood, the one you can’t help but crank and makes you feel happy.
Gretchen and Elizabeth are certainly onto something and instinctively we can all relate to the notion that music can bring emotions to the surface. They are focusing on music that makes us happy but we can all think of music that makes us feel sad, reflective, nostalgic, peaceful, etc. Music can also be therapeutic. Music therapy taps into the power of music to “restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health” and “to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development”.
Music has been scientifically proven to enhance positive emotions such as happiness, vitality and relaxation by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter important in learning about rewards, and suppressing cortisol, the stress hormone. Knowing this, I think serves as inspiration to put together playlists, which is even easier on our smartphones, than it was in the days of mixed tapes – when I was a teenager.
Although our musical selections may change over the years, it is interesting to consider the songs that are just as meaningful to us now as they were when we first heard them.
Creating your musical atmosphere
A couple of years ago, my husband Colin realized that soothing music had a calming affect on our two dogs. One of our dogs, Eddy, is a spirited, anxious yorkie who used to spend much of his day in an activated stress response. Colin started playing the spa music channel on the television, both when we were home and when we left the house, and sure enough it had a noticeable impact on Eddy’s demeanor. Unfortunately, this didn’t help with his bad manners but he’s still adorable to us with his personality much grander than his size.
This musical atmosphere we have created for our pets is one we often create for ourselves at home too. We look forward to listening to two programs on CBC radio – Tim Tamashiro’s Tonic in the evenings on the weekends and Katherine Duncan’s Choral Concert on Sunday mornings. Both are these are definitely happiness boosters, but I have a pretty healthy appreciation for many genres of music.
One of the most inspirational songs on my playlist right now is a hip hop song by Chance the Rapper titled Blessings. Chance is known to have a gospel influence in his music as you can see in this amazing performance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.
Another important role music can play in our lives is in relaxation, meditation and stillness. Some people prefer to meditate in silence, but I, like many others, prefer “musical accompaniment”. One album that has a lot of good selections is Zen Music Garden, where you can make a selection based on the amount of time you want to be still. The Insight Timer app I recently started using has a variety of ambient sounds you can add to your meditation such as waterfall and zen guitar. Ambient noises are in fact another way we can appreciate nature’s music in our lives.
Coming back to the “Happiness 911” song, I had a hard time thinking of just one as I realized this selection may vary depending on the day or my mood. In light of this fact, I will offer two of my current mood boosters, one to “jam to” as my kids would say, One Dance by Drake (feat. Wizkid & Kyla), and one to “groove to”, Lost Without U by Robin Thicke (latter selection chosen despite my personal biases of the artist…).
One final note (pardon the pun), one of my favorite musical sounds is hearing my daughter sing while playing the piano downstairs – something she has come to love doing. Playing your own music is a wonderful mood booster and stress reliever to carry throughout life.
What is your go-to song or playlist that creates positive emotions for you?