Managing Mood Music:

Or a Guide for those Millennials Who Can’t Quite Pull Off the Musical Taste of the Modern Hipster

I learned early on in my diagnosis (of bipolar disorder) that music can alter your mood. During that beginning time period, all I wanted to do was listen to fast paced, upbeat top 40 music, especially while driving.
I liked that music because it gave me instant gratification. It was an easy, effortless “up” that you could get without having to think. I heard/read a long time ago that simple music like that is easier for the ear to comprehend, which makes Top 40 music for ears that are unrefined. I can’t remember where I heard this, but the speaker/author was describing why symphonies are harder to listen to and require a more intelligent ear.

For me, listening to that music was a quick fix in the style of eating a candy bar to ward off immediate hunger, then letting the sugar crash into nothingness later. Top 40 is like the fast food of music. I was eating it all the time. I still like it, but I’ve tried to expand.

I’m not saying that all I ever listened to was Top 40. My glove box and room at home held other CDs. However, it was a huge crutch.

The most intense revolution in my mind about how to consume music in a way that’s healthy for me and how to use music in a healthy way to address mood occurred very recently.

Before my most recent (and mentally devastating) breakdown, I was working at a small business. 89.7 WNKU played every day throughout the store. At first, I didn’t really like it. I’d never been able to get into listening to WNKU before.

It played every day whether I was into it or not. Soon, it became like a friend to me. I would recognize songs and sort of dance behind the counter to them as I worked. WNKU really helped me to find a healthy balance between more complex, artsy songs and simple Top 40. I felt like I could balance the way music affected my mood in a more well-rounded way. I could listen to what I needed, when I needed it. If I needed a lighter Top 40 day, that was okay. If I needed more substance, I’d tune in to WNKU.

And now they’re going off the air because NKU sold the station. I’m going to skip writing about that part of the situation for now because it’s too painful to think about or accept.

*lights a candle in despair*

Blocking out that ugly thought for a minute (unhealthy coping, I know)… I want to explain the way that music really does alter my mood. If I hear an uplifting song pass by on the radio, I can be pulled out of a negative thought cycle without effort. There are some songs that I really enjoy, I consider too sad to listen to often because they pull my mood down into the depressive. When I listen to certain sad songs, I actually feel SAD even if there is no other trigger. It becomes too much for me so feel compelled to avoid them. If I listen to only Top 40 songs, I feel like a sugar filled garbage dump. If I try to be too “hipster” and listen to only artsy songs, I start to feel negative and irritable. For me, a balanced musical diet of everything is best. That includes sad songs at times too. If I NEVER listen to songs that allow feelings of sadness to surface and be released, then it all bottles up. I have to let myself be open to them for short sprees.

I am not a musician or music critic of any sort. I played flute in high school marching band. That’s it.

A layman’s viewpoint is all that I hold. I’m laying out a framework for people with an average level of knowledge about music as it relates to managing mood. I’m stating only what works for me, in the hopes that you might be able to discover what works for you.

My Chart of Music for Moods:

I am listing these with side benefits in parenthesis (like secondary Pokemon attacks!).

*Low –

Too Sad: City and Colour, Father John Misty, Little Green Cars, Mary Lambert, The Neighbourhood (+ angry), Kurt Cobain singing “Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” PHOX
Allowing Myself to Feel Sad (in a healthy way): The Dirty Projectors, Halsey, Kid Cudi
*These categories can overlap

Middle ground –

Sad/mellow with substance: The Airborne Toxic Event, Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists, Glass Animals, Jenny Lewis, Lorde (I would like to mention that Lorde has an amazing calming/soothing effect that I consider exceptionally healthy for my head. I play her when I feel overstimulated), PJ Harvey, Sylvan Esso
Upbeat with substance: Courtney Barnett, Joan Jett, Kayne West, MGMT, Paramore (+ angry/frustrated), Shovels and Rope, Mac Miller

High –

Fast Candy (quick energy) Pop Music Rush: The Chainsmokers, Drake, Taylor Swift, Flo Rida, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5 (allows me to feel frustrated in a healthy way), Nicki Minaj
Tilt A Whirl (way too fast/accentuates the negatives of hypomania too much):
Fifth Harmony, Selena Gomez

Note: These are my personal views about what has more “substance.” You might feel like Kayne West is garbage or you might think that I shouldn’t tie Selena Gomez into hypomania. Let me reiterate that these categorizations are for ME ONLY. You do NOT have to agree. This is just an example of how you might be able to categorize your own music to your advantage.
On another note, just because I feel that Fifth Harmony is pretty fluffy doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy their music. I don’t mean to disrespect or discredit any of these artists. I like and enjoy listening to all of them. To make this “chart,” I looked through my Amazon music and selected things that I frequently listen to. This is not a diss, only an illustration of the way different sound patterns affect mood.

As you might have guessed, it’s most healthy for me to stay rooted in the middle ground section, while taking small dips into the high or low sections – just as it is helpful to manage bipolar disorder in the same way.
Does that mean I always do that? No.
Obviously not. I have bipolar disorder. Wink.
Sometimes I tip one way or the other.
I might binge on The Neighbourhood one day, and then get in the car and blare pop music. Is that ideal?


Balance is a thin, slippery tightrope of bullshit.

But you can do it!
Get at it with your best music forward. 🙂

Thank you for reading.
I’ll light a candle for you in my head
and play you a song with wonderful vibes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s