12-27-2014 by 

A song can tame the mind and calm the nerves. A gentle rhythm can reset your mood. Research using brain mapping now shows how you can benefit from including music and rhythm playlists in your own mood-improvement.

In early and shamanistic cultures, music was often used for other outcomes than listening pleasure. Uses included communication over distance, healing, and ceremonies. Today, some researchers and therapists recommend using music playlists to help feel better. Let's look at the benefits and methods of including music playlists in your own mood-improvement techniques.

Therapeutic Benefits of Music

In medicine there is growing consent that the usage of music is very beneficial to improving one’s spirits. Patients and anyone feeling down can benefit from soothing music due to its gentle relaxation, sleep activation, mindfulness, and others. Current research in functional brain mapping has helped to bridge music to mood, and indicate possible ways to treat non-chronic / noncritical illnesses.

Functional Brain Mapping Shows How Music Works the Brain

Music has a great impact on our brain function and mental state. Recent research now shows how this works. Researchers have determined that a fabric of neurons in the central nervous system, (CNS), called the intralaminar membrane (ILM), emits a regular pulse. [2] Some medical scientists have hypothesized that the ILM serves to bind consciousness to whatever sensory information arises. [3]

The membrane pulsation can become synchronized with music. In a related study, a group of volunteers consented to having open craniotomies, and electrode placement. It was found that the intralaminar membrane became activated if exposed to the spoken word rhythm, and/or musical acoustical beat structures. [4]

The working hypothesis in mainstream medicine is that music does certainly have benefits, but is not sufficient for a broad range of conditions, and for major or chronic disorders.

Music Therapy

Music Therapy is a form of therapy in which different kinds/styles of music may be played in order to improve one's mood. I have listed below some of the various musical tempi (speed) and their therapeutic usage. [6]

Musical Tempi (Speed):

Italian Term     
English Term     
Therapeutic Usage
Adagio Stately Relaxation, Contemplation
Allegro      Fast Pick-Me-Up
Andante  Walking Pace Closest to listener’s heart-beat
Largo Broadly Relaxation, Letting Go
Presto Very Fast Pick-Me-Up, Get Going ASAP

Additionally, we can see that different styles of music can impact our mood. Our choices of style might depend on what is going on in our lives at the moment. Everyone has their own set of music they like to use. Here are some styles and how they might be used as a mood therapy:

Some Musical Styles and Therapeutic Uses

Ambient: Extreme Relaxation, Letting Go, Helps one to feel sleepy in the evening.
Classical:  Relaxation, Engaging, Playing classical music in the morning is a good way to start the day.
Pop: Pick-Me-Up. Playing pop music in the mid-day, or afternoon helps feel more awake.
Rap: Pick-Me-Up, Engaging. Playing rap music in the mid-day, or afternoon helps one to feel more awake, and aware.
Rock: Pick-Me-Up Playing rock music in the afternoon helps one to feel more awake.
Techno: Pick-Me-Up, Get going Playing techno music in the late afternoon or evening helps one to feel more awake.

Mix and match these categories, and add any others that worked for you in the past. Music generally doesn't have any permanent physiological effect, with the exception of playing any music at high volume. Although sometimes we like to drown out our worries with a loud song!

Choosing Your Soothing Music List

It is important to choose music that you have listened to only a few times, perhaps. This will help you to avoid preexisting effects that you have already learned.

My Own Music List Example

Making your own soothing music list is easy today. You can use iTunes, Pandora, or any music program or app on your cell phone, computer, or tablet to make your own soothing music play lists. We all have our own tastes in music and there are millions of songs out there, but I’ll share with you some of my favorites. I’ll give you an example of a soothing song list I made recently. The following is a list of ethereal songs that I like to listen to when I want to relax. Maybe they can help you in choosing something new:

  • Artist: Pärt, Arvo – Song: “Tabula Rasa" (Blank Slate)
  • Artist: Pärt, Arvo – Song: “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Mirror in Mirror)
  • Artist: Cocteau Twins - Song: "Rilkean Heart" (1995)
  • Artist: Cocteau Twins - Song: "Pink Orange Red” (1995)
  • Artist: Explosions in the Sky – Song: “Your Hand in Mine” (2003)
  • Artist: Explosions in the Sky – Song: “First Breath after Coma” (2003)

Here's a video of one of the relaxing songs from my list. This is a particularly relaxing song by the band 'Explosions in the Sky'. Give it a listen. I sometimes like to meditate with this song playing in the background.


Use Your Own Soothing Playlist to Meditate

I highly recommend that you try out different play lists. First thing is to create various playlists for relaxation, engaging, and/or pick-me-ups, as you need them. Next thing to do is to train yourself using a specific piece of music. Play it over and over at a comfortable volume, while you are developing your own mantra, etc. [7] if you do this several times, the specific piece of music will be there for you whenever you need it to help you get into a desirable state of mind.

Mood Keywords: music, sad, fatigue, irritation
1. Paterson J, "History of Musical Notation," http://www.mfiles.co.uk/music-notation-history.htm, Accessed 12/12/2014.
2. "Intralaminar and medial thalamic influence on cortical synchrony, information transmission and cognition," http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4023070/.
3. Saalmann YB, "Intralaminar and medial thalamic influence on cortical synchrony, information transmission and cognition," Syst. Neurosci., 2014.
4. Amzica F, Steriade M, "Short- and long-range neuronal synchronization of the slow (< 1 Hz) cortical oscillation," Journal of Neurophysiology, 1995.
5. Goaillard JM1, Vincent P., "Serotonin suppresses the slow afterhyperpolarization in rat intralaminar and midline thalamic neurones by activating 5-HT7 receptors," Journal of Physiology, 2004.
6. "Tempo," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo. Accessed 12/12/2014.
7. W., Kristen "Mantras: Instruments of Thought," Higher Mood http://highermood.com/articles/mantras-instruments-of-thought-8.html
Image Credit: nyul © 123RF.com (used under license)
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