Yes, I know the song is “Good Times Roll” by the Cars but, for the purpose of this post, I’m taking a little creative liberty. Let me explain.
There is an absolute connection between music and the human spirit. When my kids are fighting in the (cool) mom van, I crank up the Spotify “Kid Mix” playlist comprising their favorite songs. It’s like flipping a switch. The vibe in the (cool) mom van shifts almost immediately as kids start nodding heads, seat-dancing, and singing along.
Each of us has a song or songs that immediately take us back to a moment in time. One song might elevate your heart rate because you danced to it with your first crush. (Thanks, Fitbit, for pointing this out). That crush may never have amounted to anything, but the moment and the physical response to it lives on in eternity.
Another song might drop you into a dark hole, perhaps because it was charting at #1 when you lost someone close to you and, as a charting hit, it was played everywhere during that low time in your life. It doesn’t matter if the song is considered upbeat or “happy” to most people — your emotional reaction to it is anything but.
Songs can even speak to certain blocks of time in your life, reminiscent of college or childhood summer breaks or that time before I had kids when I didn’t associate They Might Be Giants with the theme song “Hot Dog” from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But I digress.
MUSIC AFFECTS EMOTIONS
Songs are tied with emotion. It’s personal. Music fires off neurons in your brain and triggers an emotional response, whether pleasant, downtrodden, or annoyed (or any of the many emotions in between).
According to The Sonic Boom by Joel Beckerman, music “shapes our frame of mind, our preferences, our personal and collective histories, and it triggers memories and powerful emotional reactions and connections. And it does so invisibly.”
The ancient Greeks put one god, Apollo, in charge of both medicine and music. Coincidence? I think not. Today's doctors tell us that music can enhance the function of neural networks, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones. And it all stems from the impact music has on the human brain.
While music involves nearly every region of the brain, the temporal lobe is associated with hearing and memory and the cerebellum is involved in emotions and movements. Daniel Levitin points out in This Is Your Brain On Music that “the emotions we experience in response to music involve structures deep in the primitive regions of the cerebellum, the evolutionarily oldest part of our brain, and the amygdala – the heart of emotional processing in the cortex.”
Throughout time and around the world, music has enabled people to connect, express emotions, and communicate. Interestingly, more than simply expressing emotions, music can alter them. Much like the example of my kids in the (cool) mom van.
In this strange time of isolation and uncertainty, we all need to take care of our well-being, both physically and mentally. Music can be another resource to empower you. If you’re feeling down, steer clear of music that makes you melancholy (for me, Bon Iver) and put on music that puts you in a good frame of mind (for me, Radiohead).
Look, we’ll explore the psychological implications of Radiohead being my happy place some other time. For now, let the good vibes roll…