Sunday, November 28, 2010

Essay: Swinging those Moods

Lifting Off (Employing Music to Relieve Melancholy)

I've felt my share of melancholy.  And I'm thankful for the gift of sadness because without experiencing it, I wouldn't have experimented with music to uplift my mood. And of course, I understand that the music that uplifts my mood, might not uplift someone else's.  Clinical depression and other mental illnesses are out of my domain so please read this essay with that in mind.

When I'm in a cranky or depressed mood, I back away from life for a short period to find my center.  I practice yoga and meditation during these times, and I catch my breath.  I've found that specific types of music uplift my moods and transform my thoughts from negative to positive.  I have a small stack of Brazilian bossa nova and Mozart CDs for this purpose.  But Bob Marley's greatest hits or Exodus work just as well in getting me back on track.

I don't suffer from seasonal affective disorder, however, living in the northern US where the fall and early winter days fall on the dark and gloomy side, I feel sleepy and lethargic on some days. I take 2,000+ mg of vitamin D3, get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, go for walks (when it's still light outside), and I listen to tropical music.  But on days when tropical music feels like a jolt to my system, I start with Scandinavian, American blues, jazz, and introspective music. Then I work my way to samba and bossa nova, then to Cuban son and other Latin music.

If you look at the "on rotation" posts on this blog, you'll find lists of songs specifically for setting and changing moods. The practice begins with tracking your physical and emotional responses to music.  Keep a journal.  And when a certain mood hits you, try out different types of music.  When you find what transmutes depression into peace of mind, stick with it. Create a music medicine chest so you have these recordings handy when you need them most.

There are times when you can ride out a mood and listen to it.  Emotions teach us about ourselves and point us in the right direction. If we feel low energy after hanging out with a person or group, then pay attention. If your energy flags halfway through the day, pay attention, and see a doctor for health concerns (get your thyroid hormone levels checked).  Music augments whatever healing practice or modality you already have in your life.  Never substitute music for medicine or other healing modalities without medical expert advice, unless you're a trained healer.

Music acts on many levels.  When we enjoy an activity such as listening to a specific type of music, we feel uplifted.  But even beyond that, some types of music empower us, slow us down, or give us a boost.  We shouldn't take the intangible powers of music for granted. Depending on its vibration, music either heals or harms us.  So keep this in mind as your journey deeper into music consciousness.

List of Melancholic Music:
(You might start where your emotions are at)

Cape Verdean music (some)
American blues
African blues
Torch songs (from Broadway musicals and jazz)
Romantic Era classical
French Impressionist
Erik Satie
Celtic ballads

Uplifting Music:

Brazilian samba and bossa nova
Cuban son and salsa
Bluegrass (swing)
Hot Jazz or gypsy swing
New Orleans jazz
Celtic reels and jigs
Quebecois music
Marching bands
Pow-wow songs
Putumayo  compilations
Mozart (some)

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