Music & Mood: Musings from Songwriter & Therapist


At first look it may seem that songwriting and psychotherapy  have little in common. But the older I get, the more I see the connections between my two “careers”.  Songwriting is my personal expression of emotion and thoughts, and fulfills my desire to connect with others in a meaningful way. My hope is that my songs will help you feel more hope, faith, relief, joy in your life…Music can be a powerful tool to help achieve a desired emotional state.
My work as a psychotherapist helps others express and make sense of their emotions and relationships. People generally come to me for therapy because they don’t like how the feel in at least one aspect of their life and want to “feel better”.
Emotional expression and connection tie both of my careers together. They are also what tie my family life together. They tie my life together.


Music parallels all human emotions and can help us manage our feelings and change our emotions to a more desirable state. Your emotional response to a piece of music depends on your past musical experiences, the meaning of certain sounds on your culture. Today the soft hits of the 60s-90s are considered “easy listening music”, but at the time they were released they was considered edgy, even revolutionary.
Music is present in all cultures throughout time. It is used to bind groups of people together, such as signing hymns with a religious congregation or singing the National Anthem to promote patriotism. Through shared emotional experiences, music indelibly links your memories allowing you to emotionally revisit certain life events simply by listening to a few bars of the song that you associate with that time.
While there are many elements in music, rhythm is an important one that promotes movement or stillness in our bodies. On one end of the spectrum is Dance music, designed to elicit movement. In the middle of the rhythmical spectrum are ballads with slower rhythm that have a more neutral bodily movement response. One the other end of the spectrum is music without rhythm, collections of sounds that flow. Generally, music from the classical era, 1800’s, like Bach, and Mozart, is highly rhythmically organized and tends to promote brain activity, rather than physical activity, thus the term “the Mozart effect”.


Here are a few suggestions for using music to improve your mood based on my own musical experiences and genre preferences. I’d love to hear your playlist suggestions!

1-STRESSED– Songs to help you relax

Look for music that has minimal rhythm, soothing tones, sounds from nature, organic instrumentation.
Recommended Genres: New Age, Classical, Acoustic Singer/Songwriters, Smooth Jazz

iTunes Playlist:

Liquid Mind – VIII Breath in Me
Claude Debussy – Suite Bergamasque: Claire de Lune
Mindy Gledhill – If I Had No Songs
Beth Nielsen Chapman – I’ll Give My Heart
Chris Botti – When I Fall in Love

2-LAZY – Songs to help you get moving

Select music that has a steady, driving beat, high energy feel, hopeful lyrics.
Recommended Genres: Dance, Oldies, Pop, Hip Hop, Electronic, Jazz

iTunes Playlist:

Beach Boys – Surfing USA
Kaskade – Face the Music (Kaskade Club Mix)
Glee Cast – Tell Me Something Good (Glee Cast Version)
Owl City – Fireflies
Destiny’s Child -Survivor

3- FRUSTRATED – Songs to help you find more joy/peace

Find songs with up-tempo rhythm, happy music, lyrics that give you a perspective shift, major chord structures.
Recommended Genres – Blues, Country, Folk, Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

iTunes Playlist

Sara Evans – Born To Fly
James Brown – I Got You I Feel Good
Tim McGraw – Watch the Wind Blow By
Nickel Creek – This Side
The Submarines – You, Me and the Bourgeoisie

4-DOWN– Songs that bring hope

Look for music with major chord structures, hopeful lyrics, authentic vocalists, and organic arrangements that life your spirit.
Recommended Genres – Indie pop, singer/songwriter, hopeful country, Gospel/Inspirational

iTunes playlist

Joy Williams – Sunny Day
Tyrone Wells – And the Birds Sing
Ryan Shupe – Dream Big
Jason Mraz – Life is Wonderful
Glee Cast – Don’t Stop Believing
Natalie Grant – Held

5-LONELY – Songs to help you feel more connected

Focus on hopeful lyrics, lyrics with relationship themes, and remind you of when you felt historically more connected in your relationships.
Recommended Genres – Country, Pop, Rock, Jazz

iTunes playlist

Mary Chapin Carpenter – I Have A Need For Solitude
Carrie Underwood – Temporary Home
John Mayer – Half of My Heart
Micheal Buble – Haven’t Met You Yet
Jordan Sparks – One Step At A Time
Miles Davis – You’re My Everything
The Remnant – Know This
Thank you to my dad Lex de Azevedo and my friend Krista Maurer for playlist suggestions!
How do you use music to improve your mood? Please share your iPod playlists for certain emotions.
Comment below…(email is required but will remain private)

Comments 7

  1. Thanks for the playlist Julie! Music is a HUGE part of getting out of my funk….when I think the world is crashing in on me I go get in my car, throw in the Wicked soundtrack and perform “Defying Gravity” as if I were the star of the show! I can then take back my own power and face the MUSIC!

  2. Great article. When I’m having a bad day or struggle with depression I always use music to “Lift” my mood. While there are many songs that do this there is one album There is Hope by Joy Gardner that I can FEEL my body release the stress or anger or depression. One day at work I wasn’t in a good mood and didn’t want to change it. One of my employees needed to talk to me – so she put There is Hope on in the outer office. I wasn’t even aware it was playing, I just noticed my body relaxing and the stress leaving and then I realized there was music playing. I walked out of my office and busted out laughing – there she was waiting for the music to take effect and it did.

  3. Music generates emotions that you aren’t capable of receiving through any other medium. For me, I listened to “I don’t mind” by Ty Tabor quite a lot following my divorce to feel as though I weren’t alone in my feelings. It helped me feel connected. When I need to relax I listen to “Bridge Across Forever” by Transatlantic or “Prelude to the afternoon of a fawn” by Debussy. To get pumped up I listen to “Wicked Garden” by Stone Temple Pilots or “Complicated World” by the Mustard Seeds. For happy music, I listen to “Mandolin Rain” or “That’s Just The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby.

  4. There are few things in this world that can snap me out of a bad mood faster than hearing “I Saw The Sign” by Ace of Base come on the radio. Not only is it a feel good song for me, but it holds great memories of cruising around town with my girlfriends singing the song at the top of our lungs. If I want to feel peace or hope, I listen to pretty much any contemporary christian music.. hearing testimony put to song has always been a huge boost to my own testimony. I will forever be grateful for those musicians who share their talents in that way, as it brings profound peace to my soul.

  5. Pingback: Julie Hanks » Best of 2010 on Julie

  6. I’m a piano player and can relate to what you’re saying! Music is relaxing, stress-relieving, exciting, and does help fine-tune my emotions! Thank you for providing these different play lists!

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