EQ WORKOUT #29 The Power of Music to Influence our Emotions.


Recently, a friend suggested that I watch a new television series on HBO called The White Orchid. It’s a drama series set in a resort in Hawaii. He thought that the backdrop of the amazing scenery of Maui would capture my imagination knowing how much I love Hawaii. He was of course correct. The scenery was simply breathtaking. The drama is very interesting, and I loved how the characters were developed. However, what really took my breath away and grabbed my attention was a song that was played in the third episode. It was a cappella song in Hawaiian – it was haunting and at the same time comforting and sent chills down my spine.

After some exploration (thank you Google), I discovered that it was from a group called The Rose Ensemble and I then found it on YouTube and you guessed it, I played it again and again. What was it about it that had me mesmerized? I think what was most important for me was the way it made me feel. When I listened to it, I almost had an image of someone wrapping their arms around me and feeling safe. As I reflected in the following days, I realized that in the past I was feeling anxious. The song came at the perfect time and helped me shift my anxiety to a feeling of calm and being protected.

I am quite sure you can all relate to this. There is music that makes us happy and upbeat and fills us with energy. There is also music that makes us reflective and finally, music that soothes us. What is happening?

Interestingly, there has been a lot of research on this question. The answer lies in the reality that music is a language. It is structured like a language and is processed in the same area of the brain that we process language syntax. What’s more, music mirrors the emotional characteristics of the voice. Think about the voice of a person who is happy and excited. Its tone is higher, and the volume tends to be louder and the pace faster. Happy music tends to mirror this pattern. The voice of a person who is sad or down has a lower tone, a slower pace, and a quieter volume – just like music that evokes sadness.

Music can be used in two powerful ways.

Music can be used in two powerful ways.

The first is to help us to surface emotions that we are struggling to find words for. Have you ever listened to a piece of music and all of a sudden felt a strong emotion and the surfacing of a powerful memory? The second is that music can help us move into an emotion. When I have a presentation and I feel nervous, which I always do, I have a playlist that I use before my talk. It’s upbeat, positive, and makes me want to sing. It never fails to lessen my anxiety and raise my confidence by a few notches.

For this week’s EQ workout, I invite you to reflect on the power of music in your life. When you find yourself engrossed in a song, be curious. Take a few minutes to reflect on what grabbed you. If the music evokes a certain emotion, what is it? Where in your body do you feel the music most?

I also suggest keeping a playlist for different emotions. A playlist for happiness, focus, reflectiveness, and so on. Depending on your mood or the emotion you want to move into, you can choose a different playlist.

For those of you interested in the piece of music I mentioned at the beginning that grabbed my attention, please find the link below:

You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores how to manage loneliness when working from home.