Entrainment: How to Affect Your Mood Through Music

One of the coolest things about music is the way that our bodies respond to rhythm. Have you ever noticed your body start moving to music without conscious thought, such as tapping your toe or dancing? The act of locking in to a beat and moving is called entrainment. A great example a song specifically written for this purpose is “Working on the Railroad.” Dance music is another example- pick the era that makes you want to move- or marching band music.

Music therapists take advantage of entrainment in their work, applying the right song or rhythm to help their clients move better and more efficiently. You can also take advantage of entrainment by being aware of your mood and either heightening or altering it, depending. For example, a friend of mine used to play dance music when we were about to go out to get us “pumped up.” Conversely, many people like to play soft, slower music when they are about to go to sleep. It is easy to tell when someone else’s tempo, or inner rhythm, is very different from yours if they play music that makes you feel just wrong, such as bluegrass at 5 am.

While we all do this naturally, I am hoping to make you more aware of your inner tempo and how to use music to help you feel better. For example, I’ve found that my tempo can tell me a lot about how I’m feeling in regards to anxiety. I have noticed that when I drink too much coffee, the constant soundtrack in my head starts playing faster songs, which can amp me up even more.

If you’re interested, take some time this week to notice what you choose to play and when. Make a mental list of which music makes you feel good, and utilize it as needed.


About jenthegiant

I'm a music therapist of 13 years and have a private practice in the Bay Area.
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