Daylight hours are dwindling in the Northern Hemisphere, which means we have less opportunity to benefit from the mood-boosting effects of sunshine. Luckily, we almost always have access to music, which can also elevate mood. In 2011, a McGill University study reported that music releases the brain chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter generally associated with rewarding activity.
The study says that dopamine levels were up to nine percent higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed. My suggestion is to take it even one step further: why not create a special MP3 playlist or burn a CD of the songs that always conjure up a happy memory or bring a smile to your face? Identify the melodies that are most powerful for you and use them to your mental health advantage!
I’m an iTunes and iPhone user, so I’ve started a good mood playlist called Anthems. I’ve been building it for about six months, and every time I hear a song on the radio or when I’m out somewhere and I notice it makes me happy, I write it down and add it to my playlist later. It’s got things like Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, Melanie’s Brand New Key and the ridiculously infectious Michael Franti & Spearhead song Say Hey.
While we’re at it, I may as well tell you about my favorite good mood + confidence boost elixir, for the days when you require a little extra mental health support. In an MP3 clip that’s less than two minutes, Danielle LaPorte delivers oodles of dopamine-releasing nuggets in the Credo for Making it Happen. Need a pep talk that’s genuine and authentic? Have a listen.
Finally, the flip side of the coin: some music can be a mood killer, and if you’re already feeling a bit blue, then those are the songs you may want to skip over for a while. Definitely don’t play them four thousand times in a row, like I did with The Tragically Hip’s Long Time Running after I’d been dumped once. It really doesn’t help. Granted, listening to an anthems-type playlist could be a bit of a stretch for you at times, but at least work your way back to a neutral starting point… maybe that’s why elevator music was created?
Do you have a song (or songs) that get your dopamine cranking? Share them in the comments and help everybody build their playlists!