Can an Earworm Actually Make You Happy?

During a recent class on developmental psychology, we were discussing various treatments for psychological impairments and one of my classmates explained that she uses music as a therapeutic intervention for many of her clients. I thought, “sure, music is used in many ways to augment or define emotions”. After all, that is why movies pay such exorbitant amounts to have scores created to accompany the dialogue.  One just needs to experience the music when viewing Schindler’s list to experience a feeling of grief, or the soundtrack of Taken to experience the feeling of action, or, the most prevalent example, the shrieking music associated with the knife-wielding shower scene of psycho. Each of these examples evoke emotion or memory of that emotion for many of us. However, I wondered how this information could be used to create therapeutic interventions for psychological issues.

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She continued explaining how her practice implements music therapy and I suddenly realized I have been overlooking a golden therapeutic nugget that had been right in front of me all along. Those of you who have followed my blog are familiar with my encouragement to correct negative self-talk as it is a vital part of addressing self-esteem issues. As I previously have mentioned, we must address and correct those thoughts when they occur. So, what if we could minimize or eliminate this negative self talk before it even begins? To help explain where I am going, let me ask, have you ever gotten a tune stuck in your head? My guess is every one of us has. This is an experience so common that a term has been given to the phenomenon — earworm. When these tunes are caught in our head, any time our mind is not busy doing some type of directed activity, that tune begins playing in our mind … almost like the mind has to be processing something all the time. Doesn’t this sound similar to how our negative self-talk continues to pester us?

So, if we instead allowed a catchy upbeat tune to become an earworm for us, it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be a need for our mind to engage in negative self-talk as it is already engaged in repeating that tune. The question then becomes, what is required for a tune to become an earworm? In the next blog post, we will evaluate the properties of these tunes to understand how we might selectively chose one.

Do you remember the last song that was stuck in your head? I had one stuck in my head this past weekend. I will post it in the comments section and encourage you to share your latest “earworm” in the comments section below as well.

Keep Smiling,
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Jim Parry

2 thoughts on “Can an Earworm Actually Make You Happy?”

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