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How To Use Music To Alter Your Mood


It’s no secret that music can impact your mood. But why do some songs irritate us and others make us feel like we’re walking on air?
Music can have lots of qualities that make us think it is happy, or sad or angry-sounding. But everyone is different, and just because you have put on a happy song, does not necessarily mean everyone listening will suddenly be happy.
Scientific research has actually identified a proven method for people to use music to alter their own mood for improved wellbeing using a certain formula. It is called the Iso-Principle and it is a technique often used by music therapists to alter people’s mood for improved wellbeing. 
The therapist will first choose music that matches the client’s mood and then gradually change it to help the client to get closer to a desired mood. 
Seems pretty simple, hey? And guess what? It is! You do not have to be a music therapist to use it.
The premise is that when we listen to music, it can affect our heart rate and blood pressure. Generally speaking, music with a slower tempo will make our body entrain to that tempo (if it is not too different from our current state). So, ideally you will choose a song that matches your current mood, e.g.: if you are feeling sad and unmotivated, you might pick a song you associate with sadness, which has a slow tempo. The next song might be slightly more upbeat, until the music is happier and your mood is lifted.

Here are some tips for making your own mood-altering playlist:

1. Get in touch with your emotions: think about how you’re feeling, try a few different songs and find one that you feel reflects how you’re feeling in that moment.
2. Think about the end point: if you’re feeling low, angry, tired, stressed, too hyped up, think about what your ideal state would be, e.g.: stressed to relaxed, or sad to content.
3. Give yourself time to adjust: don’t play your opposite ‘happy’ or ‘relaxing’ music straight away – work towards it gradually to get there over multiple songs.
4. Explore how music makes you feel: consider what music makes you feel your desired mood usually. Recognise how fast or slow a song is, and the impact it is having on you in the moment.
5. The BpM is your guide: generally 60 beats per minute (BpM) is your resting heart rate – the ticking of a clock. Consider this when choosing your music, because the tempo or BpM will make an impact on how your body and mind responds. If you are low in energy, a fast song will no doubt be irritating and vice versa.
6. Don’t be hard on yourself: use this as a way to explore the impact music can have on you. It will take time to get it right and shuffling through songs to get the right song to match your mood is totally acceptable.
7. Be conscious of your wellbeing: music can have a profound impact on us. Sometimes it can help us, but other times it can bring up negative emotions. Be aware of how you are listening to music and if you find you’re using it to keep feeling bad, or perseverate on a bad experience, it’s time to seek professional help.
8. Save your playlists: if you find a playlist that works, save it! If you have a similar situation again in the future where music can help you to get to a desired mood it will come in handy.

There are so many great existing playlists on existing platforms, you can search by mood or BpM. These can be great places to start. Everyone is different and everyone has a different experience with music, so remember, making a tailored playlist for yourself is ideal. Have fun exploring the Iso Principle and happy listening!

Reference: Heiderscheit, A. & Madson, A. (2015). Use of the Iso Principle as a Central Method in Mood Management: A Music Psychotherapy Clinical Case Study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 33(1), 45-52.

Natalie Oliveri, Director at Creative Therapy Adelaide

Natalie Oliveri, Director at Creative Therapy Adelaide

Natalie, the singing superhero, uses her magical music powers as a Neurologic Music Therapist to create harmonious homes and confident kiddos while fighting the evil forces of monotony!

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