FULL DISCLOSURE: I had originally planned to write a blog about awe walks following my recent holiday in the French alps. I told Ilana and Sally I would write it over the weekend, with a plan to put pen to paper on Sunday afternoon.
Around 2pm on Sunday afternoon, and full of good intentions, I decided to treat myself to a pre-blog nap on the sofa. BIG MISTAKE. I woke an hour later feeling exhausted, grumpy and full of the Sunday blues. I begrudgingly sat at my laptop to write my blog – but I had nothing to say. I felt so miserable and out of sorts. From my doom and gloom there was no way I could write my intended ‘happy’ blog.
By 6pm, feeling unproductive, I decided I needed a break and would cook some dinner. I walked into the kitchen, took potatoes and peeler, and uttered the 4 little words that would change the course of my evening ‘Alexa, play Fleetwood Mac’.
The opening strums of ‘The Chain’ poured out of the speaker. Instantly the air around me seemed somehow lighter. I began to sing as I peeled – quietly at first, but then more loudly. The next song began: ‘Tell Me Lies’ – yep, this was more like it. The quicker tempo got me moving. I turned the volume up and my mood felt a little brighter. Maybe THIS was what I needed to cheer me up. The third song kicked in (details coming reader) and that’s when the magic happened. It was just the perfect song at the perfect time – full of rhythm, attitude, guitar and melody. It hit the spot in every way. Volume turned up to ‘extra loud’ I sang along (badly) with a wooden spoon as my microphone. I danced and jumped. I felt AMAZING!
As the song finished, I continued to ask my speaker, Alexa, to play some specific songs. Songs which seemed to call to me. Not my favourite tracks per se, but the songs I needed to hear in that moment to make me happy.
It’s easy to underestimate the power music has over our emotions. But my experience in the kitchen highlighted to me what an important catalyst for happiness the right piece of music can be. There has been a whole host of research done on music and emotions, many of which are highlighted on the Happynesshub site. A study at the Montreal Neurological Institute performed brain scans on people to see how they were affected by uplifting and neutral music. The positive music lifted their mood and activated those parts of the brain responsible for reward and positive emotion. They described that this music gave participants “chills” of euphoria! A separate study at McGill University in Montreal showed that music can cause the release of dopamine in the brain – the “feel good” chemical that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. “This basically explains why music has been around for so long,” says Valorie Salimpoor who conducted the study. “The intense pleasure we get from it is actually biologically reinforcing in the brain.”
Here are the 5 songs I chose in the kitchen that changed the course of my evening so brilliantly. Have a listen – perhaps they’ll bring you joy too. And I firmly believe the way you listen to them helps – so don’t dismiss my suggestions to enhance the listening experience – ha! Headphones at the ready – we’re going in.
SONG 1. FLEETWOOD MAC – GO YOUR OWN WAY’
This was that magic song that turned my evening around. What a BELTER. If you listen to the lyrics it’s actually quite an obnoxious break up song, but listen through a different filter and it feels empowering – you CAN‘go your own way’ in life! This song demands to be sung at full volume so don’t be shy. And the instrumental from 2’40” is amazing to stomp your feet and play an imaginary tambourine to. My husband said my dancing during this was ‘chimpy’… and I take that as a compliment.
SONG 2. MADONNA – VOGUE
Do you think Madonna mopes around miserably on a Sunday afternoon feeling sorry for herself? Of course she doesn’t – SHE’S MADONNA! From the very start this song exudes confidence, power, energy and sass – and who doesn’t want more of that in their life? Within seconds of listening I was strutting around the kitchen, releasing my inner diva whilst whisking the gravy. And don’t dismiss this as a casual pop song. Released in 1990 this ground-breaking song championed the under-represented, underground gay community. The lyrics are surprisingly insightful and sum up the power of music and self-belief.
All you need is your own imagination,
So use it that’s what it’s for.
Go inside, for your finest inspiration,
Your dreams will open the door.
It makes no difference if you’re black or white,
If you’re a boy or a girl,
If the music’s pumping it will give you new life,
You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are, you know it.
For added happy points may I suggest you sing/speak along to the middle eight ‘rap’ section at 3’42”. I think joining in – and you need to be committed here – heightens the listening experience and will make you feel invincible. Here’s a link to the lyrics so there’s no excuse.
SONG 3. THE RONETTES – BE MY BABY
I love 60’s music and in my opinion this is the perfect pop song. Great tune, banging beat, amazing singing, all wrapped up in under two and a half minutes. It’s also the first song in the film Dirty Dancing. I don’t think I need to say any more. Just listen – you will feel a million dollars afterwards.
SONG 4. GENE KELLY – SINGING IN THE RAIN
Ahhhhhhhh – this one EXUDES happiness. In this song, handsome Gene Kelly is soooooo happy that not even torrential rain can dampen his mood. I can’t listen to this song without grinning from ear to ear. Watch the video of it now and I defy you to get to the end without cracking a smile – the climax at 3’22 is pure joy. Interesting fact for you here: Gene Kelly was actually ill with a raging fever when he recorded this. And rumour has it they put milk in the water to make it show up on film. So, he is actually really sick and dancing in milk… gross… and yet he still looks happy. That’s the power of a good song for you. Bonus happiness points here if try a tap dance whilst you listen.
SONG 5. SHERYL CROW – SOAK UP THE SUN
I remember the first time I heard this song and the lyrics struck a chord instantly. I remember thinking Sheryl Crow was some kind of genius for writing the lyric that kicks in 34 seconds into the song…
‘I don’t have digital,
I don’t have diddly-squat.
It’s not having what you want…
It’s wanting what you’ve got!
I’m gonna soak up the sun,
I’m gonna tell everyone to lighten up.
I’m gonna tell ‘em that I’ve got no-one to blame,
Everytime I feel lame, I’m looking up…
I’m gonna soak up the sun.
And that’s happiness right there, isn’t it? That’s gratitude! Summed up in a few lines of a pop song! The entire track is uplifting and sunny and bright. I implore you to soak it up.
By the time that fifth song had finished I was ready to dish up dinner – sausage and mash in case you interested – and was feeling much HAPPIER. Music had changed my entire mood within half an hour! And so, I want to encourage all of you to have a listen (and a sing-a-long) and see what happens to your mood. Of course – music is very subjective and your personal happy songs will be linked to your own musical tastes and memories – so why don’t you leave suggestions of YOUR happy songs in the comments below. I’m sure the whole Hub Community would love to listen to them. Maybe we can create a brand new Happynesshub playlist between us and share the euphoria!