It feels like we’re constantly listening to music. We play it in our homes, on car rides, and when hanging out with friends. We even hear it when we’re out shopping or eating at our favorite restaurants. If you’re like me, you may even keep your headphones in for most of the day. But what impact are our music choices having on our level of happiness and satisfaction with life?
Most of us have noticed that music can sway our emotions, causing us to feel happy and energized in one song, and then sad and lonely in the next. There is no doubt that the instrumental aspect of a song can sometimes speak to us more deeply than the lyrics do. Scientists have proven that instrumental music can easily alter our emotional state. Sciencedaily.com wrote, “listening to particularly happy or sad music can even change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen.”
However, the melody of a song is not the only part that affects our mindset. The lyrics in songs actually stick with our minds much longer than most of us might realize. Studies looking into the impact of lyrics on human psychology are few and far between, but there is no doubt that they have a incredible influence.
We say it here a lot: Words are powerful — and in the form of a catchy rhyme or rap, they can easily work their way into our subconscious minds — hiding there for long periods of time, and causing us to feel spiritually, and sometimes even physically, nourished and content, or sick and drained of our energy. Why not use the power of words to charge and encourage us, instead of letting them defeat us?
Most of us have likely had full body chills or watery eyes from a happy or sad song. The instrumental combined with the lyrics creates something of a trance over us, leaving a positive— or negative— influence on our minds, bodies, spirits, and ultimately our choices and actions. When striving to improve our mental health, optimistic and hopeful music choices are beneficial in keeping us in a healthy mindset and on the right track. Think of the music you listen to as being the soundtrack to your life. Does this music reflect who you are or the version of yourself you’re working towards becoming?
We’ve all probably had a line in a song get stuck in our heads. Lyrics are very powerful because if the song is catchy enough, we might sing it in our heads, maybe even out loud, for a week straight. Our subconscious minds dwell on these words and repeat them over and over again. Just one sentence in a random song can totally transform our perspective on a situation in our personal lives.
In a recent study held at The University of Pennsylvania to explore the connection between lyrics and positive psychology, Tricia Fox found, “The results of this exploration indicate that lyrics have the potential to increase two of the five elements of well-being in the PERMA model, positive emotions and meaning. It is suggested that you can increase well-being by mindfully listening to meaning-filled lyrics bolstered by music’s ability to influence emotion.” This is great news for those of us who mindfully select the music we consume!
How do we find the right music for us?
In every music genre, there are positive and negative artists, styles, and songs, so where should we start? The key to knowing what music supports our personal improvement is to tune into how we feel when we’re listening to different types of music. We should ask: How does this song make me feel? What does this song make me think about myself, others, and the world around me? Do these emotions and thoughts support the work I’m doing to become my best, or higher self?
One of my favorite books, The Secret, written by Rhonda Byrne, discusses the importance of listening to our feelings and using them to shape our reality. She writes, “The importance of feelings cannot be overstated. Your feelings are your greatest tool to help you create your life… Your feelings tell you very quickly what you’re thinking… You want to become aware of how you’re feeling… because it is the fastest way for you to know what you’re thinking.” To find music that makes us feel positive and inspired, we must pay attention to what music makes us feel positive and inspired, and steer clear of the music that doesn’t.
The right music for each of us will look very different because we all have different music tastes and different life experiences— We’re not all going to listen to The High School Musical soundtrack when we’re feeling down—The point is, it’s important to find the music that soothes our individual and unique minds, bodies,and spirits— And this is for us alone to decide.
When we become confident in our understanding of the emotions we feel when listening to different types of music, we’ll know pretty quickly when a song is destructive toward our aim for a more positive life.
Some people may be wondering— Is it OK to listen to music that isn’t positive sometimes? It depends on what your goals are. Surely, nobody aims to be angry or sad, but it’s important to be mindful about what we consume. In moderation, listening to this type of music won’t necessarily create a problem. However, when it’s listened to frequently and consistently, the emotions and ideas being conveyed through the music can become intertwined with our thought processes.
If we want to truly be happy, it will be helpful to steer clear of taking in negative music on a regular basis. Why listen to music that makes you feel doubtful and unmotivated when we could be listening to music that makes us feel fulfilled and inspired?