Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Practice--Using Uplifters to Change a Mood

While I went out walking today I wondered what topic I would write about next to build music consciousness. Then I saw the lyrics to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" written out with colorful chalk on a log. Thus began my brief exploration of happy songs.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to using happy songs to change a mood. In one camp, you change an angry or sad mood gradually by introducing songs that have slightly more uplifting moods than the previous one and work your way towards happy. The second camp believes that we can choose to be happy now since happiness is just a state of mind controlled by our thoughts. In that case, we can change our mood swiftly by singing or listening to a happy song.

I guess it depends on the individual and the deepness of their particular funk. Meaning, if someone suffers from chronic depression or anger management problems, then it would be the equivalent to plastering a band aid on a gaping wound to expect this person to get happy from a song. They might curse the song and dig deeper into their dark mood.

But for individuals who are suffering from mild disappointment such as losing an opportunity or failing to get a job after a round of interviews, I think this is when they can choose to be happy by thinking different thoughts and listening to songs with bright lyrics. But I will say that even when I suffered from chronic depression, happy songs bounced me out of my despair more often than not.

We need to look at genres too since happy songs come in all shapes and sizes from George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to McFerrin's "Be Happy," to Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World," to show tunes, "Put a Happy Smile on Your Face" and "Singing in the Rain." Rock songs that cheer people up include, The Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun," and "Octopus' Garden," and songs by the Go-Go's or Katrina and the Waves, "Walking on Sunshine."

This article is not meant to diagnose medical conditions and only suggests changing moods through happy songs for the average person.

Get started with this tune.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Practice--Eliminating Toxic Music

"Tranquility" by Patricia Herlevi
People have told me that certain music that irritates me might actually be healthy for them. It's true we all have varying musical tastes and different bodies. Some of us have thicker skin than others, but there is some music that is toxic for everyone. Still, how do you know what is right for you?

First, you must pay attention to your body sensations, emotions/feelings/moods when exposure to music or even sound frequencies. I have yet to meet someone who isn't bothered by the noise of airplanes flying overhead, leaf blowers, or power lawn mowers. Most people just shut out these noises and tell themselves that they are part of the modern and urban lifestyles.

Unfortunately, we have little control over music or noise that we encounter throughout the course of our day. However, we can decide what will play in the background or foreground of our homes. We can set the volume to a level that won't cause harm to our hearing or nervous system. We can, if we don't have a household full of teens, control the type of music played in the home and prefer softer to heavier thudding music. But again, some people require more thudding and jarring music to get them going because they tend to be more Kapha, as described in Ayurvedic medicine which is a thicker skin and slower moving energy. Vata dosha is the opposite when we get a thin, wiry nervous person who is easily agitated by noise or other disturbances coming from the environment.

So because we are unique individuals with different body types and mental temperament there are still commonalities that we all share. So watch for the following symptoms:

You feel irritated or agitated 
Have trouble focusing around the music
Feel jumpy or like you could jump out of your skin
Dull headache 
Nervous tension
Foggy mind

Beethoven, Wikipedia
Now, sometimes it's the volume of the music alone that can cause the above symptoms. Other times it's a combination of the volume, environment, and music. Music with a strong beat is not conducive for work that involves concentration and focus. Too loud of music is going to pump up the nervous system and cause agitation if we're expected to sit still in front of a computer. Why would you listen to dance club music while working on a computer, for instance?

Part of the problem is that we don't choose the appropriate music for the activity. And this really only requires common sense and not music research. I have experimented with different types of music and composers within those genres. For example, not all classical music works well for proofreading or doing focused work. For that I prefer silence or slow Baroque or French Impressionist music. But even this music could leave me feeling sleepy by afternoon.

Varying the tempo and type of music to match activities throughout the day works for me. For instance, I might listen to medium tempo classical music for lunch or I might go ethnic and listen to world music that matches the type of food I'm eating at lunch. But then when I get back to work, depending on the project and level of energy or focus required, I choose music or silence with mindfulness and from past experiences with certain songs. Then of course, for meditation I choose new age or Indigenous songs or chants.

Once you have worked with your music diary for a month or several months, you'll know which music works best for any activity. This leads to mindful uses of music. This doesn't mean that we can't also listen to music for pleasure or for dancing or for background for a party we're hosting. And we still have little to no control of the music blasting in grocery stores and malls. But we can depending on the dentist, doctor, or healer, suggest types of music we want playing in the background during certain medical or healing procedures. And this is important because we already know about the healing power of music.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them here. Thank you for stopping by Whole Music Experience and raising your music consciousness. Every mind matters on this journey. I'm the author of the unpublished book, Whole Music.