The music you listen to on a daily basis, or at various times of your life, can turn you either toward or away from joy. This practice will help you be more aware of how you tune in to music-and in turn, how music attunes you to different mood states. All you need to conduct your musical experiment is a sheet of paper, a writing instrument, and a watch or clock. Here's how you will conduct your personal experiment.
1. Create three columns on a sheet of paper. Label the leftmost column "Mood Rating Before." Atop the middle column, write "Music Type." Last, label the right column "Mood Rating After." The idea here is that you will chronicle how you use music and the effect it has on you-and how long it takes until your joy compass starts working.
2. Begin by using a scale from 1 to 10 to rate your mood before you turn on music, with 1 indicating a low mood and 10 a joyful mood. Then, make a note of the time, or if you have a stopwatch, start it.
3. Next, experiment by choosing to listen to a particular type of music. There are optimistic songs like George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" (which I listened to earlier today to help me brighten up, despite the persistently cloudy weather outside my window); upbeat songs like Bobby McFerrin's perennially popular "Don't Worry, Be Happy"; lamenting tunes like Elvis Presley's "Separate Ways" and Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces"; and uplifting spiritual songs of forgiveness, such as "Ave Maria': and "Amazing Grace." You can also find songs in other categories, such as those that are sentimental, nostalgic, and historical. The goal is to find music that turns your compass toward joy-although you may also discover what music turns you away from joy.
4. Music does not need lyrics for it to move your mood in a positive direction, so try experimenting with instrumental music, from classical to blues to techno to jazz. Let yourself sing along, and feel free to adapt the lyrics. And if your body tells you to clap your hands, Snap your fingers, tap your feet, swivel your head and shoulders, wave your arms, or dance like a dervish, follow its lead.
5. When you have finished listening to one or more songs of a particular type of music, notice your mood state and write your rating in the right-hand column. Also, write down how much time has passed since you started this experiment.
You have just identified what music helps you locate joy and how long it takes for you to get your neurochemistry happily dancing.— Donald Altman in The Joy Compass: 8 Ways to Find Lasting Happiness, Gratitude & Optimism in the Present Moment