Music can soothe a troubled mind. Tony Fawcett meets the mastermind behind an award-winning youth program exploiting the power of music.
Whether Queen’s thumping ‘We Are The Champions’ or ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ by artists too numerous to mention, music is a powerful mood influencer.
‘Walking On Sunshine’ can put a spring in our step and Adele’s anthem to lost love, “Someone Like You’, can make some of us cry.
Few recognise that power of music more than Lynsey McLeod, project officer and consultant to the Australian Lions Wellbeing Foundation, until last year known as the Australian Lions Drug Awareness Foundation.
For 11 years, Hobart-based Lynsey has been spearheading the organisation’s award-winning online youth health program Tune In Not Out (TINO), billed as a one-stop shop for young people 14-25 seeking information on life’s challenges – from alcohol, drugs, sex and sexual health, to school work, money, bullying and cyber safety.
Apart from sourcing videos, factsheets and stories geared to the challenges of the young, TINO (www.tuneinnotout.com) invites followers to Tune Your Mood, a section geared to helping us understand the power of music on our wellbeing.
“Most of us listen to music regardless of age, from toddlers listening to favourite rhymes to make a car journey easier, to teens selecting songs that are good to study to or adults selecting mood-boosting songs that evoke happy memories in the current day,” explains Lynsey.
The right song, she contends, can change a mood, set a new mood or help the mood feel better, activating feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin, sometimes known as the love hormone, in our bodies.
Equally, poorly chosen music can make us feel worse. “This is where understanding and becoming aware of how music is affecting us is so important, and a powerful tool,” says Lynsey who holds a degree in public relations with a background in community services including drug education and family support,
Music can be a double-edged sword, she contends. Some songs can start off being helpful, allowing us to vent our emotions, but then they leave us in a heap.
“They might make us feel angrier and stressed, or bring back negative memories or experiences, unpleasant feelings that make us spiral instead,” she says.
“Once you recognise this, you have the power to adjust this amazing tool by using it as a prevention device, by actively choosing not to listen to certain music at certain times.
This is where TINO comes in.
It encourages young people to take care of their moods, maybe by pressing skip and selecting a new song or playlist to take their mood to a more positive space, to feel more in control of their thoughts and feelings.
Rather than dictating, TINO shares playlists, compiled by young people themselves, of mood-boosting songs proven to lift the spirits, to relax and comfort, relieving listeners of stress and anxiety.
While some suggested songs might seem irrelevant, Lynsey says it’s all about music preference. What works for one person and is quite personal to them might not work for another.
She suggests we all learn to recognise how songs make us feel, play around with our music choices and even make our own playlists. “You might find a new style of music that is really positive for you.”
With two teenage children herself, a daughter 16 and a son 13, she is well placed to observe the positive effect music can have on the young.
So what is her own favourite mood-boosting music?
Definitely the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
“A bit of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is a family favourite, from father to son their music is something all of us appreciate.”
Yet, not unexpectedly, sad songs, especially those that raise sadder emotions, are generally out.
“I much prefer upbeat nice music,” she assures.
To find out more about the foundation’s work, click here.
A sampling of TINO’s contributed soothers
(check them out on Spotify or YouTube)
. Kiss From a Rose by Seal
. Gorillaz by Clint Eastwood
. Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind & Fire, The Emotions
. Slow Hands by Niall Horan
. Chained to the Rhythm by Katy Perry, Skip Marley
. Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran
. Mr Brightside by The Killers
. Take Me To The Church by Hozier
. Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
. Hold Back the River by James Bay