musicmood-1050x424Are your emotions on shuffle?

Most people would agree that music sets the mood. The science of the matter is conflicting, however, marketing research says that music indeed has a very strong impact on emotions.

According to the study of Music, Mood, and Marketing by Gordon C. Bruner II, “Music is not simply a generic sonic mass, but rather a complex chemistry of controllable elements.” Because music is a great conduit for emotion, artists are able to convey specific feelings to their listeners.

Adele’s album 21 is the perfect example of this phenomenon. Her success is due in no small part to the relatability of her lyrics. Many, if not all, of her fans identified with her relationship troubles. The more you relate to a song, the more likely it is that you will buy the single or album. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it is interesting and it works.

Let’s not forget that lyrics are only a portion of a song. Adele’s lyrics were perfectly supported by the musical composition of each track. Every tone was designed to emphasize the emotional state described by the song. Chances are, your music streaming service also uses this research to suggest artists that inspire similar emotional feelings as the artists you already like.

Ok, so what does all of this have to do with therapy, you ask? Luxurious spa’s use music to set the mood for their guests; why not play your own version of a relaxing spa-like playlist the next time you need to unwind? Likewise, department stores use upbeat, fast tempo music to create a sense of urgency to promote sales. Up-tempo music can help you get through chores and workouts as well.

Music can do more than just set the perfect mood, it can also help correct an undesirable mood. For example, one gloomy summer I moped about, taking those closest to me on a roller coaster of emotions. I had been listening, virtually non-stop, to the work of a particularly tragic sort of artist.

It was the end of summer before I realized that some records should come with a warning label. Caution: Listening to Amy Winehouse could cause serious emotional distress! Once I recognized the inspiration of my persistent gloom I decided to switch to a more upbeat, positive musical vibe for a while and that seemed to do the trick.

Two sayings come to mind that can be modified to fit this theme. The first being, “We are what we repeatedly do,” or rather, “we are what we repeatedly listen to.” Constant subjection to emotionally heavy music will most certainly have a harsh effect. The other saying goes, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Or in other words, “Choose music for the mood you want to be in, not the mood you are in now.”

Music therapy is creating a playlist that inspires a desired emotional state. When I want to feel happy and light I play songs that make me happy and aren’t too serious. When I am angry I want songs of forgiveness and patience to help me get past the anger. Choose the right song and repeat as needed.

No matter what, when, or where, I will always lip sync to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” A song like that is great ammunition against stress and frustration— I keep it handy! What song puts you in a better mood? Post it here on my Facebook page and see what inspires others!

Bruner, G. (1990). Music, Mood, and Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 54(4), 94-104. doi:1. Retrieved from doi:1