Music can be a fast way to change emotions

The correct use of music can be one of the fastest ways to change your emotional state and manifest the persona you need.  Music can emphasise or de-emphasise or distract the different internal dialogues in your head, plus most music also often has a personal memory association that triggers a deeper emotional response.

If you have small children, you will know from firsthand experience the impact high-energy music can have to make your kids hyper active, while soft, calming tones can be used to send them to sleep. The same applies to us as adults. Next time you are having an argument with your spouse, throw on some upbeat music that has happy lyrics and see how quickly the argument dissipates.

The other benefit of using music is that we can use it anywhere, at any time, without any real additional workload. It’s easy to throw some headphones on and listen to a song or two between meetings, in the car, while working out, or just about anywhere.  Plus it requires no real conscious thought – the impact process is almost completely sub-conscious – meaning you can keep doing whatever else it is you were doing while being transformed into a new persona.

Case Study: Elon Musk

In July 2017, when Elon Musk held the official launch event for the Tesla Model 3, his girlfriend Amanda Heard has just broken up with him. He was struggling emotionally.

“I’ve been in severe emotional pain for the last few weeks. Severe. It took every ounce of will to be able to do the Model 3 event and not look like the most depressed guy around” said Musk in an interview to Rolling Stone magazine a few weeks after the event. “For most of that day, I was morbidand then I had to psych myself up” Musk added.

How did Musk lift himself to pull off the launch event? He used music (well that and a few cans of Red Bull and hanging out with some positive people). Minutes before the event, after meditating for pretty much the first time in his life to get centred, Musk chose a very telling song to drive onstage to: “R U Mine?” by the Arctic Monkeys.

You can see the full, unedited interview with Rolling Stone here.

Hints and tips

Step 1 – create the playlists you need

Think about the different personas you use and the different activities you perform, and create playlists for each of them. Here are some ideas, but think about what suits you:

  • a superhero persona playlist to put you into the “i can do anything” state of mind, or a similar type of playlist for when you have to do sales calls or pitch for funding
  • a swagger playlist – or something that you associate with “walking like a badass”
  • a playlist for when you have to de-stress after a difficult situation or disputes
  • a playlists for workouts, exercise and the gym
  • a playlist for post-work wind-down, to put you into your family / home persona
  • a playlist for love and relationships
  • playlists for the weekend

Step 2 – select the songs

The music in each playlist needs to be selected to put you into the mood, the zone, or the state you need to emphasise the right part of your personality for that activity.

You might choose music for it’s tempo and beat, or for the lyrics, or because of the memory association with a particular moment in your life.

You don’t have to sit and try and create playlists in one go. Instead, as you listen to music, note how you feel listening to each song, and continually add to your playlists over time based on the emotional state the song gives you. Overtime you may also want to remove songs from the list that no longer work for you, or which you have outgrown.

Note that we are talking about music here, not podcasts or other content. Music doesn’t require your attention, and activates different parts of the brain. Music also has a higher level of emotional response.  Podcasts, audio books and other content are useful, but they achieve a different purpose to music playlists.

Step 3 – listen

This is the critical part. Now that you have these playlists, you have to use them. Regularly. Likely multiple times a day.

Before you have to go and perform a certain activity, or even just to start your day, put on the relevant playlist to get you into that state.

Now you are very likely not going to be in the mood for that particular type of music.  Maybe you just had an argument with someone, or you are feeling drained, or your just in the mood for a different type of music in that moment.  This means that you will start listening to your persona playlist and initially find the music irritating, and feel like you want to change channels or playlists.

But that’s the point. You need to listen to the playlist to change your mood and emotional state. So persevere. When you find a song that clicks, put it on loop. You might listen to that one song for 20 minutes or more if it is working to put you into the zone.

One pro tip – based on our experience, listening with headphones removes other noises and distractions, which means you focus more on the music, leading to a faster response time to achieve a persona change.