Making Your Own Soundtrack: The Secret to Scoring Your Moods

Color and music pours out of the figure’s mind as they listen to music through headphones. Music inspires creativity, emotion and memory as one of the highlights of the human experience (Photo illustration by Phoebe Holm).

What do you do when you’re having the type of day when everything is going well? It could be that you had your favorite food for dinner, the laundry room was empty, your early class was canceled or any other number of serendipitous things that make our days a little easier seem to be coming your way. 

I struggle to invest in this feeling. 

When I’m having a good day, I spend most of my time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing is worse than having a wonderful day, just to be taken down by something new or unexpected. It could be a turn in the weather, one too many inconveniences, embarrassing yourself, being spoken over or some other misadventure knocking you down from your pedestal. Be it big or small, I find I’m always prepared to feel the sting of my own hubris; and for what? Everyday living?

Is it worth it to never let yourself be happy if it means you’re always prepared to be disappointed?

This is where music comes in. For some, music is something to relax to; for others, to psych themselves up for the day. I’ve known people who listen to music for energy, some who listen for focus and some who listen to cry. For me, it helps to remind myself that it’s okay to be happy. 

Enjoying music is a diverse and personal experience for everyone, and experts say the effects are positive across the board. 

One such expert, Andrew E. Budson of Harvard Health blog, says that people who listen to music have healthier brains. 

“Because music can activate almost all brain regions and networks, it can help to keep a myriad of brain pathways and networks strong, including those networks that are involved in well-being, learning, cognitive function, quality of life and happiness,” Budson said in an article for the blog.

I can attest that listening to music helps me to study and focus, as well as remember meaningful memories. Paying attention to what music can do for you, or how you feel when you listen to music, can help you to be intentional in choosing what you listen to. 

Dr. Shahram Heshmat of Psychology Today said in an article that many people listen to music that matches how they’re feeling. This helps with disengaging from stressful situations, as well as expressing emotions.

I have a difficult time with this theory. 

When I’m feeling sad or anxious, turning to my sad or anxious playlists is often the first thing I do. For me, this tends to lead to spiraling into a  feeling I can’t get myself out of. This is, of course, the point of the playlist in many cases; sometimes you just need to cry. 

Here’s where the first key to making a great playlist comes in: intentionality in the theme. 

When I make a playlist, I keep a very specific theme or memory in mind. Instead of choosing to make a “sad” playlist, instead, make a “rainy day” playlist. Choose activities, weather or even just vibes, but avoid absolutes when possible. This keeps you from getting trapped in a feeling and gives you the opportunity to feel better. 

The next step has to do with the actual content of the playlist; the actual songs are what shape your chosen theme.

To make a truly original and evocative playlist, remember: songs without lyrics can be extremely powerful. To make the perfect playlist for focus or sleep, use lyrical songs sparingly. 

Finally, the last factor for every good playlist is paying attention to the packaging. Giving your playlist a meaningful and unique cover, title and even description can go a long way. With all the bells and whistles included, your finished product will catch eyes and ears, and make creating playlists a more fun and creative experience.

With a careful mix of songs from films, video games, lesser-known and popular artists, you can create a playlist that inspires feeling without feeling one-note or poisoning your favorite songs with repetition.

With all this in mind, I have a playlist to share with you. 

Whenever I’m feeling down, disappointed, lonely or generally knocked down, I turn to this playlist. Every time, its effectiveness frustrates me; it shouldn’t be this easy to feel better. And granted, there are some feelings “Sunny Days” can’t fix – but what it does do is remind me that I deserve to be happy, to recover from my mistakes, to forgive myself and feel the sun on my face from time to time.

This doesn’t have to be your favorite playlist, but I hope it gives some kind of impression of the power of music for me, and what a playlist has the potential to be. 

Go out and make your own. Try some new songs. Go for a new feeling and remember that the music you listen to is powerful. You have the power to control what it brings out in you, so be kind to yourself.

About Bonnie Lord 40 Articles
Bonnie Lord is a sophomore from Alma, Michigan and is an environmental science major at Albion College. She investigates questions of infrastructure, water quality and the changing relationship the community of Albion navigates with the environment. She enjoys bird watching, reading, and dismantling the patriarchy. Contact Bonnie via email at

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