Music for Mental Fitness: Mood Control
How does music control your moods?
- Aggressive music calms me down.
- EDM makes me happy.
- Music is my therapist because the song understands me.
- I’m reminded of what I don’t want to do in the lyrics.
- Music connects me to loved ones who have died.
- My anxiety calms down when I listen to music.
Are these music listening responses indicators of strong or weak mental fitness?
If your moods are being effectively controlled with periodic listening, then your music listening habits may support mental fitness. If you find yourself constantly self-medicating with music to make sure your moods stay controlled, then your music listening habits may only temporarily relieve the pressure of unsettled moods, such as anxiety, anger, loneliness or sadness. Your mental fitness may be weak as you attempt to control these moods, which may quickly escalate out of control – exploding or imploding. Sadly, we see daily evidence of moods out of control with violent outbursts, abuse, suicide, and the substance abuse epidemic.
Psychology Today reports that mental fitness requires three crucial components for psychological or emotional fitness: affirmation, visualization, and relaxation.
The music’s energy mixing ten musical elements, with or without lyrics, can stimulate all three of these areas for optimum mental and emotional fitness, also known as “EQ” or “emotional intelligence.” In fact, when music is intentionally used for effective emotional regulation, improved emotional intelligence is possible. And higher “EQ” is desired by employers who measure mental fitness and emotional intelligence through hiring interviews and performance evaluations.
Improved “EQ” is a sign of controlling moods effectively, thus building mental fitness. Successfully controlling moods indicates anxiety, anger, loneliness and sadness are significantly reduced on a regular basis with peace and happiness liberated continually.
Conversely, unsettled moods out of control may be fueled by instinctive music listening habits. When we instinctively listen to music we match our state of mind or mood. And if that mood is unsettled, music may stir undesirable memories or associations with people, places, or things, and escalate anxiety, anger, loneliness or sadness. Out of control moods, fueled by music, may directly or indirectly trigger substance abuse.
If already challenged with self-medicating through drugs or alcohol, there are two ways music may trigger relapse when trying to control moods: the direct path or the indirect route.
- Certain songs can directly trigger immediate physical craving for the alcohol or drug of choice.
- Music can fuel the unsettled mood which becomes unbearable to the point of craving the alcohol or drug of choice to numb the mood.
The Danger Zones
There are danger zones with certain music listening habits. It could be that problematic unsettled moods become so prevalent that a level of tolerance is achieved. Along with that tolerance, a different perception of that mood may exist. When this happens, I developed a theory in working with thousands of patients diagnosed with substance use disorders.
It could be that problematic unsettled moods become so prevalent that a level of tolerance is achieved. Along with that tolerance, a different perception of that mood may exist.-Judith Pinkerton
It appears that a Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™ may steer music listening habits into triggering substance abuse. This danger zone becomes a more insidious condition to recognize, accept and transform.
The Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™ theory asserts a tolerance for feeling “anxiety” most of the time might be perceived as feeling “excitement;” “anger” might be called “energized;” and “depression” may feel like being “calm.”
When this occurs, music may be referenced as “exciting,” but it’s really fueling anxiety; music called “energizing” may be escalating anger; and music perceived as “calming” may be deepening depression. And now those more deeply felt moods may spiral out of control, and self-medication with the alcohol or drug of choice is sought to numb moods out of control. These experiences in the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™ may describe the results of listening to his/her preferred music as similar to these statements found at the beginning of this article.
- Aggressive music calms me down. My anxiety calms down when I listen to music.
Insight from the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™: Aggressive or fast-paced music may match and relieve anger or anxiety which then is perceived as soothing.
- EDM makes me happy.
Insight from the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™: The fast-paced core of EDM with a soothing melody may match and contain anxiety with a calming balm.
- Music is my therapist because the song understands me. I’m reminded of what I don’t want to do in the lyrics.
Insight from the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™: If the song describes unsettling conditions and is listened to repeatedly, it could keep you stuck in that condition.
- Music connects me to loved ones who have died.
Insight from the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™: If the music brings tears of sadness and is listened to frequently, it may create an unrelenting cycle of grief that seeks to honor and respect the deceased by staying sad.
“Five Best Addiction and Recovery Songs” were reviewed in a previous article, “Music Powers Potential: Good, Bad, Ugly”, and featured only positive lyrics from these songs. Conversely, if one is stuck in the Chronic Unsettled Comfort Zone™, negative lyrics found in these same songs could weaken mental fitness and trigger relapse.
- “I was waiting for my hearse – What came next was so much worse.” ~ Sixx AM “Life is Beautiful”
- “Under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood.” Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge”
- “ … inside you’re ugly, you’re ugly like me.” ~ Staind “It’s Been Awhile”
- “Party girls don’t get hurt. Can’t feel anything, I push it down.” ~ Sia “Chandelier”
Music Therapy Offers a Way Out of Addiction
When one is in recovery and listens to songs that remind him/her of negative conditions, then the listener could actually remain stuck in unsettledness. And if unsettled moods are internal triggers into relapse, glean personal insights from these examples:
- The lyric may remind one of what is not desired, the negativity of life.
- The lyric may not offer enough about what is positively desired for recovery, with a major focus on life during active addiction.
- The music may correspond to an unsettled mood (i.e. fast-paced aggression or slow-paced sadness).
- The music may shift from aggression or sadness into a happier state, which may alter one’s thoughts and feelings into optimism or gratefulness and avoiding negative conditions, but the lyrics still focus on active addiction.
When you find your music cravings only relieve the pressure of the unsettledness, but do not mitigate anxiety, anger, loneliness or sadness, Music therapy offers a way out of addiction into recovery, a pathway through an emotional continuum of mood music facilitated by a board-certified music therapist. It is through this therapeutic relationship that deeper issues may be resolved to support healthy lifestyle choices.
Instill a positive mindset, building mental fitness by affirming and visualizing what you desire, at the same time relaxing your mind into a deepening spiritual connection that may significantly reduce emotional pain and tension. Music you crave, mixed within a balanced diet of recovery mood play lists, can support a healthy lifestyle.
As we continue to decode the power of music to build mental fitness, sharing music together through Pro Corner, this series of articles will clarify how music may control moods and support or weaken mental fitness. What music empowers you?
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