5 Steps for Harnessing the Power of Music

I was at a seminar this past weekend where music was used to enhance the different exercises we participated in.

Upbeat, dance music was played while we all entered the room. This got us excited about being there and put us in a real state of expectation about what we were going to learn.

Beautiful, epic, instrumental soundtracks were used as we reflected and wrote thoughts pertaining to our life and our future. Uplifting and positive songs put us in a state of gratitude and plenitude.

I’ve always known it and so have you. Music is power. It influences us all the time. Religious music lifts our hearts to worship. “Emo” music leaves us feeling melancholy and often depressed. Workout music makes us MOVE. Lullabies lull us to sleep.

Music is power.

So, what if we harnessed that power and intentionally used music to prepare us for the challenges and opportunities that we face every day?

You can do just that. You can use music to manage your emotional state just by following these five steps:

1. Determine the emotional state that you need. What are you going to do?

Do you want to go for a run? Study for an exam? Have a dinner party? Unwind from a long day? Hang out with friends? Spend some “special” time with your spouse?

After coming home from the seminar, I realized that I’d love to have a playlist that I could play while I was getting ready for my day. In the kitchen fixing breakfast. In the bathroom getting dressed. What would put me in a strong, positive, state of expectation? That’s what I wanted.

2. Determine where you where you want to “go.” How do you want to feel?

Do you want to feel worshipful? Full of energy? Reflective? Creative? Nostalgic? Romantic?

I have one playlist that I call “Porch Music.” It’s the music I want to play while sipping wine with my friends on the back porch on a warm summer’s evening. I want us to be relaxed and feel free to talk and laugh together.

As I considered songs for my It’s-Going-to-Be-an-Outstanding-Day playlist, I had a very specific goal in mind. I knew exactly where I wanted to “go.” I wanted to be energetic, positive and inspired.

3. Build a play list that can take you to the “place” you want to go. 

Start a collection of playlists for lots of different situations. Some may have lyrics, some may only have instrumental pieces.  Your personal music library and iTunes are all you need.

This is the funnest part for me. (Yes, the “funnest.”) If I’m not careful I can spend hours and hours looking for just the right songs for a particular playlist. I LOVE this!

For example, when I’m going to study or write I have a playlist that I call Gail’s-Background-Music. It consists of songs from my favorite soundtracks. Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius; The Horse Whisperer, Little Women, Searching for Bobby Fischer; Braveheart, and Seabiscuit, to name a few.

As I thought about my It’s-Going-to-Be-an-Outstanding-Day list, I knew that I’d be including some dance music, some rock, and for sure a little reggae. Some of my favorite rockin’ Christian songs would be on that list. And a few fun, upbeat country songs would find spots there as well. I wanted to recall times in the past where I felt particularly strong and hopeful about the future, so I’d have a few oldies sprinkled throughout.

Bottom line: I looked for songs that made me feel good about life, about living it to the fullest. Today. I wanted to feel strong and confident—my best self—where I could be in a state to grow and to give.

4. Tweak and edit as you need to. This will be an ongoing process.

When you play this list a few times you’ll realize some of the songs just don’t fit in. Delete them. You’ll think of ones you forgot. And you’ll hear ones you must add. Keep tweaking.

5. Start listening. Get into your zone.

Listen in your kitchen. Listen in your bathroom. Listen on your back porch. Listen at your desk. Listen in your car. Listen on your run or in the gym. Most of all, have fun.

You get the idea.

Imagine how powerful this can be! Listen and let the magic of music work for you. It’s a tool that you can keep right in your personal “tool box.” Harness it’s power to manage your emotional state. Get inspired and energized. What’s possible when your best self shows up?

Question: What are some playlists you’d like to create? Think of ones you don’t currently have.

Here’s a sampling of my It’s-Going-to-Be-an-Outstanding-Day playlist

Good Morning by Mandisa (feat. TobyMac)
This is Your Life by Switchfoot
Dare You to Move by Switchfoot
Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman
Live Out Loud by Steven Curtis Chapman
Dive by Steven Curtis Chapman
Stomp by Kirk Franklin
Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me by Keith Urban
Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez
Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins
Free Ride by Edger Winter
Good Life by One Republic
Beautiful Life by Ace of Base
It’s My Life by Bon Jovi 

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30 Responses to “5 Steps for Harnessing the Power of Music”

  1. I see that we share quite a number of songs on your list. I have a passion for music too. I’m a songwriter, composer and a singer in basically jazz, rock and soul and presently learning how to play the guitar.

    Music is a gift given to us by God and it’s worth cherishing and should be used maximally. Great article.

  2. Leona Suderman May 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Great idea!

  3. Hahaha! I love how “Life” is listed 4 times in the titles alone! It’s so cool to see Michael & your relationship exhibited publically; I’m always looking for great examples of married couples, as is the rest of my generation! It’s always encouraging to know wise folks like you have “special” time! And what happens inside quote marks STAYS inside quote marks! Haha!

    For mellow writing music I love the latest Jane Eyre & Pride & Predjudice soundtracks, plus Explosions in the Sky “The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place” and Adam Young’s “Port Blue.” Don’t forget Switchfoots’ “Vice Versus” for mellow & Good Day/Good Life Music!

    A group I recently purchased and am enjoying is “For King & Country.” The younger brothers of Rebecca St. James have some good authentic sound! Love the passion in “The Proof of Your Love!”

    Finally, for “Great Day” you HAVE to listen to Shonlock’s “Hello!”

    Love you Gail!

  4. I love making play lists! When I was taking classes, I made a Study Music playlist with some upbeat music, and I made sure it was long so the music wasn’t repeating. But I like the idea of making an Upbeat playlist. Mine has a good variety of songs including Funky Jesus Music by Toby Mac, Revive Us by Annointed, Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge, and even Make War by Tedashii.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I purchased Mandisa’s album and I love it. Would you be willing to share some of the songs on your “front porch” playlist? That sounds like a fun one too!!

    Have a very blessed Thanksgiving with your family!!

  6. I love your list, downloaded a few, inspired to create a few new playlists.

    Gungor always make me smile, Yahweh – by U2, Happy Day by Jesus Culture.

    Many thanks for the post.

  7. Since I commute on bus/train quite a bit, I’m going to create a “Peace amidst chaos” list. Ooh, then I definitely need a “Photography Trekkin'” list…that one would be some Christian alternative and interesting background music to fuel creativity.

    After reading many of the comments, and as someone who has listened to Christian music my entire life, I’m saddened by the high percentage of Christians that don’t support Christian musicians. They need us! There are so many styles of Christian music that compare to mainstream “secular” (personal favorite: Christian techno). Shouldn’t we be filling our minds with positive music from those using God’s gifts? By listening to other lyrics, aren’t we creating a constant mental battle all our own? Don’t we have enough to deal with on a daily basis? Do Christians really listen to a band with the name LMFAO….say the words of that acronym out loud…not so cool anymore, is it?

    Sorry about the soapbox….I’m just surprised!

  8. Gail, Thanks so much for this. I went out and got a few of the songs on your list. I have started running a little this year and have created a different “5K list” for each 5K I have done. Here is my latest:
    Here Am I – Mercy Me
    Party Rock – LMFAO
    Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga
    Stronger – Mandisa
    Hearts on Fire – John Cafferty
    Courageous – Casting Crowns

    I know…quite a ‘mix’ – Whatever works!!

  9. Got here via Michael’s “How to Get out of that Funk” post. :c) I love this idea and need to do it! I’m not very experienced in playlist creating, though. May I ask … do you create them in iTunes? Do you purchase music there or elsewhere? Or are there sources to download songs at no charge (legally, of course :c)? Thanks for whatever info you can give!

  10. I’m now thinking Bon Jovi may be even better. Haha

  11. Thanks for stopping by. Now that I’m settled from a long period of travel and transitions, I will be blogging with more frequency.

    BTW, I’m a huge fan of Michael as well. 😀

  12. I don’t have the whole album. But maybe I should. I’ll check out “24.” Thanks.

  13. I love those Switchfoot songs. “24” (last song on the cd) is my favorite meditation song still so many years later.


  14. Isn’t it amazing how music can totally transport us back to a particular time and place. Amazing. Thanks for your comment.

  15. I do this same thing. I love the power of music. U2 is one of my favorite go to lists. I love songs like It’s a Beautiful Day and I Will Follow. I even throw in some of Smitty’s Chonda’s praise songs. I have a play list from when I lived in Sweden back in 81 consisting of Carole King, The Beatles, and James Taylor when I need a reminder that I still have an adventurous spirit.

    Love this post. You gave me some good ideas for lists. Thank you.

  16. Thanks, Amber. When you mentioned driving, I remembered that I’ve got a playlist called “On the Open Highway.” I love it! I just have to pay close attention to my speedometer when I’m listening to it. 😕

  17. Hi John,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I’m going to download some stadium anthems. LOVE that idea!

    Great to hear from you,

  18. Great Idea, Gail. I bought a clip on iPod Shuffle a while back for running and it works great for working around the house. It’s so light you don’t even know you are wearing it. For my running tracks, I love the stadium anthems such as “Get ready for this” or “Let’s get it started.” For listening while working, I like upbeat jazz without the vocals. Brian Simpson and Joyce Cooling rule this genre.

    I’ll have to check out your list. Great to see you back online.

  19. You’re kind. Thank you. I’m diving back into the pool. Even if it’s really cold at first. 🙂

  20. Oooo. Yo-Yo Ma. Yes! I had completely forgotten about him. I’ve got two lists where I’ll think of including him.

    I have Gungor on one of my lists. I also love Leeland. Not familiar with Christa.

    I don’t have a grandkids playlist yet. Thanks for the nudge.

    And, I will definitely check out “It’s On.” Thanks!

  21. Thanks, Shelia. 🙂
    I haven’t done a Lent nor Advent one yet. Great idea!

  22. That’s one of my favorites!

  23. Great article. Keep up the good work. I’m reading every single word. Peace.

  24. I’m seriously impressed by your playlist. So fun, so diverse.

    When I write I like listening to Yo-Yo Ma or Andrea Bocelli.

    When I run, I’ve been listening to a lot of Gungor and Christa Wells lately. And I have to admit I like Taylor Swift’s latest album.

    I have three little kids, but can’t stand bad kids music so we like the Seeds Worship cd’s and the Rizers. There’s just something about hearing my kids walk around quoting scripture. It’s fun upbeat music that creates a fun feel in our home. We also often break out dancing to Britt Nicole or Addison Road.

    Also, “It’s On” by SuperChick is a GREAT song for your It’s-Going-To-Be-An-Outstanding-Day list.

  25. It makes my day to think of you rocking out to Danger Zone in the morning. I think I’ll play it tomorrow, and imagine that you might be listening and dancing around your house at the same time. 🙂

  26. Gail, these are great tips! I especially like number 4. What seems like a good idea when I am compiling a list in front of the fire might not turn out so great when I’m on the trail next day for a run. If i find myself consistently skipping certain songs, I give myself permission to reconsider.

    I have a number of playlists. Here are a few: Running (more than one for variety), Classical Music for Sleep (For Kenzie. Mostly.), Christmas, Buona Serra (Did this for an Italian Dinner I was hosting. Loved it, so it stayed.), Lent, Chill (The aural equivalent to comfort food.), etc…. Gonna have to think about new lists I might want to create.

    Fun post. Thanks!

  27. I’m not familiar w/ “Alive.” Will definitely check that one out. THANKS. What would be the first list you’d create? Where do you see the most potential?

  28. May I suggest “Alive” by Pocket Full of Rocks for your It’s-Going-To-Be-An-Outstanding-Day list? 🙂

    This is a great idea. I only had a Workout Music and Worship Music list, but now I see I’m not using the lists to their full potential. I’m on it! Thanks, Gail!


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