It’s no small thing that music affects your moods—it’s that feeling of nostalgia when the theme song from your senior prom comes on the radio. Or that burst of energy you feel when that jazzy tune plays as you get ready for work. Even hearing the national anthem taps into something biological within you. Can you imagine hearing it now? Notice what happens in your body. What sensations do you feel? When this happens, without even trying, the root chakra is stimulated and your innate desire for connection to tribe is activated. In The Anatomy of the Spirit, author and speaker Caroline Myss explains that this tribal connection is such an important part of your body and brain that, without it, all the other energies in your body can feel misaligned.
Why music? Music is believed to have a healing influence on the brain and the body, although research is only just starting to investigate its abilities. The human brain is wired to connect to the frequency and vibration of rhythm and tones. It is no surprise that drumming, humming, and singing shows up in cultures around the globe.
According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.” Some of the benefits of listening to and playing music include:
- Increased cognitive functioning
- Improved memory
- Lowered stress responses
- Decreased depression in cancer patients
Try the following suggestions to bring more music into your daily life. Even a few beats can change your whole outlook! The music selections listed below are inspiration. Listen to yourself—what songs, sounds, or beats allow you to live your best life?
1. Music in the Morning
What’s your get-up-and-go song? Put it on first thing in the morning! Put on some jazz while you drink your morning coffee. Or put on a song and groove as you decide what to wear for the day. Choose a tune and dance with your kids or your lover and notice how it changes your day.
Music suggestions: Bob Marley, Journey, and Aretha Franklin.
2. Make a Playlist
There are lots of music apps out there. Many of these technologies allow you to access millions of hours of music for free or at a low cost. You can discover new music by typing in genres, artists, or bands you know you enjoy or simply put old favorites on repeat.
Create a playlist for yourself or a loved one. This could be a cool gift idea or this could be just what you need to feel motivated on the elliptical machine! You could theme your playlist or pick some of your all-time favorites. Perhaps you make a playlist including only songs by local artists. Or a playlist with songs that include the word “freedom.” Let your creativity shine and remember that there are no rules.
Music suggestions: Michael Franti, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Trevor Hall, Brett Dennen, and Xavier Rudd.
3. Put on Some Music and Dance
Just do it. Put on a song or make a playlist of some fun jams. Take off your shoes and dance like you’re at the disco! You could do this one on your own or with your beloved as a fun way to bond. Get your blood pumping and enliven your spirit with a casual groove around the kitchen, ahem, dance floor.
Music suggestions: Your favorite songs, of course!
4. Go to a Show
Splurge and see your favorite artist live. Let the energy of the crowd feed you. Is there an artist whose music you’ve come back to again and again? Is there someone you feel connected to but you’re not sure why? Purchasing a ticket to a show, whether at a large arena or a small local venue, supports the art of the musician you admire. And there’s nothing like singing along with the crowd when it gets to that part in the song that everyone knows!
Music suggestions: Amos Lee, Lake Street Dive, Bruce Springsteen, Ani DiFranco, Lady Gaga, Phish, and Beyoncé.
5. Learn an Instrument
Did you dread clarinet practice growing up? Were you forced to take piano lessons and now can’t stand the thought of reading music? Picking up a new hobby can be exhilarating. Learning to focus on a task at hand, as you do when you’re learning to play scales or chords, can influence other areas of your life. Sign up for local music lessons or find some valuable instruction online.
Music suggestions: Guitar, keyboard, drums, harmonium, and harmonica.
There is a long history of mantra and music as a pathway to spiritual connection. Whether you sing in church, clap along with kirtan, or hum to yourself while you do the dishes, repeating positive words can change the pathways in the brain and calm the nervous system. If singing in community uplifts you, attend a gathering. If you prefer solo time, choose a phrase or sound that feels resonant with you and repeat it throughout your day.
Music suggestions: Wah!, Mahalia Jackson, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Snatam Kaur, Dave Stringer, Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, and Prema Hara.
7. Write Down Your Favorite Song Lyrics
You know that song stuck in your head? Maybe it’s there for a reason! Let the lyrics inspire you as they run through your head. Sometimes you listen to music but don’t pay attention to the significance of the words being sung. Try jotting down the words to your favorite songs and see if there is some significance there for what’s going on in your life.
Music suggestions: Bob Dylan, David Grey, and Janis Joplin.
8. Write a Song
Maybe it’s silly. Maybe it’s for kids. Maybe it’s for a birthday. Maybe it’s just for you. Challenge yourself to make up some lyrics (start with rhyming!) and have fun. Maybe your song will be the next big hit or perhaps it will brighten someone’s day.
Music suggestions: Oldies or country music.
Whether it’s playing a positive tune as you prepare breakfast, putting on some mellow music before bedtime, or finally signing up for those guitar lessons, allow more music into your life. You may discover your new favorite artist or you may start your day with a positive outlook. Happy music making!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.