We’re all familiar with the situation where we get in a particular mood, and it makes us want to listen to a specific type of music. When you get bouncy and silly, you put on ABBA. When you just broke up with someone, you drown yourself in songs about heartache. It stands to reason that we should probably do the opposite, using happy music to lighten a gloomy atmosphere, and calm music to tame the chaos, but we seem mostly to use music the other way around. Rather than letting music affect our moods, we tend to let the mood dictate the music. But what happens if we start taking control and deliberately manipulating our minds with the sounds we hear?
As you probably already have experienced on many occasions, some music has a very powerful effect on emotions. It can bring a smile to our faces, and it can also reduce us to tears. Other music just seems like neutral filler, something we put on in the background while we’re doing other things. These observations are indications that we can also use music for some practical soul-bending, instead of letting things happen by accident. With a few careful choices about genre and tempo, you can help determine the course your moods will take with the songs you select.
Memory plays an important part in determining which music creates which mood. For example, when I was doing research for my undergraduate dissertation, I had a particular CD that I used to listen to on repeat while I was working. Over time this created a conditioned response in me, and even now, six years later, any time I need to settle down and focus on some kind of researching, all I need to do is put in that disc, and my mindset is instantly transformed. Likewise, I have specific songs I like to play when getting ready to go out, and songs I use to help me relax and unwind. The mind makes very strong ties between the things we do and the sensory input we have while doing them.
Personal experience does have something to do with music’s effect on us, and it’s important to take this into account. For example, many of us have been in a situation where a man tried to get us in the mood with allegedly romantic music, perhaps something by Barry White. This may work on you if you’ve only ever heard Barry White in limited amounts, but if you have extensive knowledge of the sheer volume of TV skits and comedy routines that use Barry White’s music as an ironic joke about romance, hearing it in a real-life situation might seem ridiculous and make you laugh (although it has to be said that this may still work out in the guy’s favor, providing he understands the humor).
We all like to think that we have a wide and varied taste in music, but there’s always room for expansion. Different genres and tempos can wildly influence not only the emotions we feel, but the thoughts we have and the things we want to do. If you choose the right music for the right situation, not only can you help boost your mood in the direction you want, but you can get your brain in the right context for whatever activities lie ahead of you. If you’re lucky, you can even get yourself in a fantastically perky mood on your way to work, a feat that will surely annoy your coworkers to no end.