“A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.”

~ Colbie Caillat

I think music has been key in helping me navigate the highs and lows of pandemic craziness. How about you? It’s why I was so excited about my friend Jennifer’s new book that’s all about why music playlists are so good for our mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health.

Think about it, depending on what you need for yourself, there’s a song that will lift you up, or calm you down, give you energy, or strength, or inspiration. And, until I read Jennifer’s book, I never really thought about how I could create playlists for myself that will help me think, feel and do better.

If you’re a playlist person, or like me, you used to be, and wonder about their place in your life now, you’ll enjoy my chat with the author of Wellness, Wellplayed – The Power of a Playlist.

Watch the video below, read the transcript that follows, or simply listen while you work via the audio download. And, then check out WellnessWellplayed.com to pick up a copy of this nostalgia-generating, thought-provoking read.

Audio only:

Hey, Michelle Cederberg here with my good friend and speaking colleague, Jennifer Buchanan. Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing person before I tell you why we’re here. Jennifer Buchanan witnessed the power of music as a young teen, when her granddad had his second stroke which left him unable to speak and walk. Her granny asked Jennifer to bring her guitar to the hospital and sing his favorite song. And as she sang, she watched the face of the grumpy old man she thought she knew, turn into the tears of a man who wanted more meaningful connection. That moment was the beginning of her journey to becoming a Music Therapist. Now, Jennifer has combined her Music Therapy experience with an MBA, and is the founder and visionary architect of JB Music Therapy, a Calgary based music therapy company that has been instrumental in the implementation of hundreds of music therapy programs throughout Canada.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my listeners have used this wonderful company in their long term care homes and hospitals. Her company has been nominated three times for the Community Impact Award by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, and this year they are celebrating 30 amazing years in business.

Jennifer is also the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Music Therapists. I give her a hard time because she is the busiest person I know. She’s an award-winning Music Therapist and a three-time author of two award-winning books. One of which is Tune In, the second, Wellness Incorporated, and her just released new book Wellness, Wellplayed – The Power of a Playlist. And it’s this book that we’re going to be talking with Jennifer about today. So thank you for being here, Jennifer. Welcome, welcome, welcome in all your spare time.

Jennifer: Oh Michelle, I adore you. And I hope everyone sees that this is mutual admiration.

Michelle: It really is.

Jennifer: I’ve got your book behind me and of course you have inspired me so much in my work and my business that you just talked about.

Michelle: Love, love, love. So I spent a good part of yesterday reading this book and I was super excited to talk to Jennifer because from the moment I started reading it, there’s one word that came to mind and it’s nostalgia, Jennifer.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Michelle: I just kept thinking back about the power of music in my life. So let’s talk about that a bit.

Jennifer: Well what’s interesting is you and I have so much in common, one is our age and that we’re both gen Xers and that we both remember the cassette. We probably both remember eight tracks in the car, even when we were little.

Michelle: Oh gosh, the nostalgia piece right there. I’ll stop you. Because at the beginning of the book, Jennifer gives the history of music essentially, and how we’ve curated music – from cassettes to CDs, to downloadable MP3s – and all of that kind of stuff. And it was the cassette tape, Jennifer at the beach at Whonnock Lake when I was a teenager, waiting for that song to come on the radio to press record and play at the same time. I mean, you know what I’m talking about.

Jennifer: I so know what you’re talking about. And this is ultimately where the book came from. So if we recall in early 2020, the first thing that began to happen once we knew that the world was changing forever, that we started going on social media and we were seeing people sing.

Michelle: Yes.

Jennifer: We were seeing them in Italy, singing from their patios and they were singing songs that everybody knew.

Michelle: To pull together when we were apart.

Jennifer: Right.

Jennifer: And we also went into our homes. Many of us for were not in our homes normally this much. We started listening to our music again. This concept of the Power of a Playlist has been something that I’ve been using in my work for 30 years, but it really was in this last couple of years where the impact of that sunk in; about what a meaningful difference playlists make in our lives. And as you’re saying, the nostalgic part, like what does that actually do for us?

Michelle: I was just thinking back to all of the ways music has impacted me in my life and how it does today. It occurred to me that I make playlists now for my cycle classes that are up beat and energizing (that I freaking love and my cycle participants love), but I don’t make playlists for the rest of my life anymore. So that was my big awareness because I made them in my twenties and my thirties. I had my breakup playlist that I would put on when I wanted to feel melancholy. And when I wanted to cry. And if there was a song that was too upbeat, it didn’t make the list cause I just wanted to feel sad.

Jennifer: Right.

Michelle: I remember my brother having a skiing playlist that he had on a cassette that he put in his Sony Walkman. And then he put on his headphones and hit the ski hill, boom, boom, boom, with his super long skis and his super speedy music.

Jennifer: Well and you know, this is the point. The book is supposed to remind us of all those things. And we are really fortunate because we were like the creators – us Gen Xers – of the mix tape right? And as you were saying, pressing play and record simultaneously, and sometimes the record button was a little sticky and you missed the simultaneous part. So you had to do it again.

Michelle: And what did we do? We stuck a pencil into the cassette and wound it back just enough to get that cue perfect for when the next song was going to get recorded.

Jennifer: Right. And when we think about that moment, it conjures all the memories. When you put a cassette together, sometimes it would take days or an entire weekend to get all the songs you wanted on there. And then if you were really fortunate, you had a dual cassette, so you could make a couple of copies for your friends. Remember that?

Michelle: That was a special gift.

Jennifer: It was a gift.

Michelle: I got a mix tape from a guy who I dated for a short while, and then I realized we were not meant to be together. So I broke up with him, and then he showed up on my doorstep with a mix tape that he’d made me to basically convince me that we needed to be together. Now the unfortunate thing is, it was an awesome playlist and he had exceptional taste in music, but he just wasn’t the guy for me. I still wish I had that mixed tape.

Jennifer: So even if he would’ve held the boom box up outside your window he was a no, Michelle?

Michelle: No, no.

Michelle: Okay so here’s a question that I have because I mean we could wax nostalgia for hours and I’m sure that my listeners are probably thinking back to all their past playlists, but I want to talk about present playlists and why-

Jennifer: Yeah.

Michelle: Why are our playlists, and music in general so darn important?

Jennifer: You know, one of the things that I have found as I’ve worked with people around putting together their playlists is that yes, you’re curating your music, but you’re also really curating your values. What’s truly been important to you? What’s important to you now? And what do you want to build into your future? And music, there’s nothing more efficient and effective I know that gets to the root of those feelings of what we hope to have. And it can help with our aspirations and support us along this life’s journey, our life soundtrack, and become a real part of that. You and I were talking just before we started about how playlists take time. And I mention this a few times in the book that when we start talking about putting together our playlists, it’s truly simple, but it’s not easy. And it does take time. There’s a level of investment that needs to go into curating our music. And I believe that’s where the meaning’s going to come in when we do it.

Michelle: Well it just occurred to me while you were talking that one of the things I do is I have Shazam on my phone.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Michelle: And every time I hear a song that triggers me in a positive way, I press Shazam so I can record it. And at some point I need to go back and create playlists out of some of those songs. I do that for my cycle classes, for sure. Because it’s that feeling right? It’s that there’s an energy change that happens in the body. And this is where the science geek in me gets excited. There’s a chapter in the book called The Art and Science Music. It’s Track Two, in the book, not Chapter two.

Jennifer: Oh yeah they’re not called chapters, they’re called tracks.

Michelle: … And the science geek in me loves this because it didn’t occur to me – as much as I know about this kind of stuff – that why those good feelings were happening is because it was triggering a neurotransmitter/hormonal response in the body. So say more about that.

Jennifer: Yeah. And you and I have a lot of this in common because I know when I read through your book too, that when we’re looking at movement (and movement to music), it impacts mood as well.  It’s very, very similar. I talk about how music is ‘Hormonious’.

Michelle: Harmonious?

Jennifer: Not just harmonious, but hormonious.

Michelle: You talked about hormones as the body’s internal wifi.

Jennifer: Right because that’s where they land in our glands. They travel around our body and they stimulate and trigger emotions, and they anchor those feelings. So that’s where all the moods and memories start connecting. Here’s an example. When you are whirring … I don’t even know if that’s a word, but you know, … but you know when you’re cycling something over and over in your head, and you are having a really hard time letting it go, and you keep coming back to it through the day? And it’s not necessarily an optimistic thought. It’s one you’re literally worrying about. Well, when this happens we have triggered that amygdala response.

Michelle: Yeah, you’re talking about whirring over something that you’re stressed about. So it’s the Amygdala Hijack.

Jennifer: Right. What happens when we start getting nostalgic, or we listen to a song that brings back a different time of our life, unrelated to this worry of the moment, we immediately access this beautiful place in our brain called the Hippocampus, which is where our warmth and creativity resides. And once we’re there, we can settle there for a bit. It is really impossible for us to stay ‘whirring’. If we’re really deeply connected to a piece of music, from there, we can make our next best decision.

Michelle: So you’re saying that we should all have a stress management playlist.

Jennifer: We need a stress management playlist, and more importantly, instead of calling it stress management, focus on the positive with the feeling you aspire to – Nirvana, hope, happy feels. That should be the name of your playlist. For example, my energy is usually really low at 4:00 in the afternoon, pretty much every day. I’m fired up in the morning. I can go, go, go, go, go, then I hit 4:00 and my energy flattens. I used to think what I needed was a musical energy boost, so I put together an energy playlist, which was high pumping … and I found it made me more tired.

Michelle: Ahh yes.

Jennifer: I did some research around that.

Michelle: Yep.

Jennifer: Did some research and discovered I wasn’t allowing myself to decompress… to refuel.

Michelle: Your body’s cortisol was already high and you were amping it up by listening to amped up music, rather than recognizing, “I need to chill.”

Jennifer: Totally.

Michelle: “I need to get those happy hormones and neurotransmitters working for me.”

Jennifer: Exactly, but it was actually the opposite.

Michelle: One of the quotes from the book was from a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist (and musician) named Dan Levitin. And he said, “The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs. And it’s easier on the body.”

Jennifer: Right.

Michelle: Now you’re not suggesting that we don’t get the medical care that we need …

Jennifer: Don’t stop your meds, right?

Michelle: Yeah, but music has a really important place in helping us feel better.

Jennifer: Yeah. And like I was saying about my 4:00 p.m. lull, maybe I didn’t need energy, but what I needed was that feeling of a hug. Music can do that. That feeling of a hug releases Oxytocin, which gives us that feeling of a bonding experience. This is your brain on music. You know?

Michelle: I was going to ask you how science influences my playlist, but I think you sort of answered that. After spending a couple of hours reading your book yesterday, my husband left to go north for work, and I asked my YouTube music to play a random playlist while I made dinner. None of the music was resonating with it with me, because it wasn’t my choice, and it wasn’t what I needed for myself in that instant. And it occurred to me at that point it’s like…

Jennifer: Yeah, yeah.

Michelle: …I need to start making my home playlists: What do I want to be listening to when I’m making dinner? What do I want to be listening to when I need to chill or when I need to pick up my energy? That’s part of how science influences. Is that accurate?

Jennifer: Absolutely. And you know, even thinking about when we’re separated from our loved ones, if we’re wanting to feel more connected to our loved ones, we can also have a few songs on there that remind us, of them as we listen to it.

Michelle: So I have the great honor of being in Jennifer’s book. On page 43, she quoted from my Success-Energy Equation book about how I talk about goals, and she related it to why we should have goals when creating a playlist. So is there anything you want to say about that?

Jennifer: Yes! I’m actually going to read it out: “I recognize you may have several why’s for using music – to de-stress, to boost your memory, to increase your productivity, to lessen your anxiety. Whatever your objective may be, just naming it will help. In her book, The Success-Energy Equation, Michelle Cederberg puts it this way. ‘When you set a goal, your attention is naturally drawn toward what you should do next. Your brain starts to look for ways to accomplish that goal and you gain focus. Which is an antidote to all the distractions and low priority tasks that compete for your attention every day.‘ Cederberg goes on to discuss goals in the most beautiful and musical way. ‘If your goals don’t resonate with you at a deeper level, it will be hard to stay connected to them.'”

Jennifer: I love that.

Michelle: It’s so interesting. As I listened to you read my own words back to me, I realized that the music that I was playing yesterday didn’t resonate with me because it didn’t have a connection to what I needed right then and there.

Jennifer: Right.

Michelle: It wasn’t purposeful. And I think you talk about the purposeful playlist.

Jennifer: Yes.

Michelle: And you put a whole list of ‘Naming your playlist goals’ in the book: for comfort, to reduce stress and lessen anxiety, to improve mood, to find purpose, to increase productivity, to boost creativity, to feel inspired, to strengthen relationships for general self care. It didn’t occur to me until I read that list that I need to have more playlists in my life again. I used to have them all the time.

Jennifer: Okay. So Michelle, here’s the good news. This is going to be a new way to add daily art into your life. I know both of us love to journal. We love to write obviously because we’re authors, but the playlist is another way that we can add that creative process into our life, that we know is good for our mental health and wellbeing.

Michelle: Particularly now Jennifer, as we’re kind of navigating the tail end of a pandemic that never ends. And there’s stress and uncertainty and fear in everyone in, I think that’s why this book and the power of the playlist is so darn important now. You agree. Well, you would agree. You wrote the book. So if people wanted to do a playlist, how do you break down the overwhelm of that for my listeners, to tell them, “You do have the time!” How can we do this? You know, without stress.

Jennifer: So the first playlist, and I know you just said, break down the overwhelm. This one might be the biggest one, but I also feel it’s the one that’s going to help us the most with the context for future playlists. So it is your personal soundtrack. It is just getting out maybe 3, 4, 5 pieces of paper and you can leave them out on the kitchen table or anywhere on your counter and put headers at the top of the pieces of paper. One might be my earliest memories. One, my junior high memories. One is my high school, my young adulthood, today, whatever you want really.

Jennifer: Have them out and begin to add music. Sometimes it’s going to be an entire album. Sometimes it’s going to be a voice or a singer that has meant so much to you for a reason. Just begin to put those out as if you’re documenting your entire personal life through song. And that will eventually become your really big personal soundtrack. That will be the basis for a lot of other episodic moments through your life.

Michelle: I can even just think about Fleetwood Mac or Billy Joel or Boston from when I made road trip playlists when I was in the university.

Jennifer: Right there.

Michelle: It triggers emotions of like, oh my gosh,

Jennifer: Totally. You can remember who you were with. You can remember what car you were in. You can remember what the road looked like as you were driving by. You can remember the colors it’s in technicolor.

Michelle: It’s amazing.

Jennifer: It’s amazing.

Michelle: And ABBA, when I was little, because my family’s from Finland. So we had Abba playing quite often.

Jennifer: You had to have ABBA.

Michelle: They’re making a comeback. I love that. So that makes me realize that I don’t spend enough time in that nostalgic era in my past. And I often listen to the music that my husband puts on, and I think I need to change that. As much as I like his music, it’s not always my music.

Jennifer: And you know who else is going through that? Parents of teenage kids, they’re listening to all the music that their kids are listening to, but they often aren’t turning on their own.

Michelle: And it’s interesting when you do play your own music how much your teens, often like it.

Jennifer: Totally. They do. They love the ‘oldies’ too. Yeah.

Michelle: So, we could talk about this endlessly. I want to say to all of my listeners and viewers, if you need a pick me up, if you need a walk down nostalgia lane, if you want a wellness resource that is not only helpful, but super fun, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of Jennifer’s newly released book Wellness, Wellplayed – The Power of a Playlist. Jennifer, where can they find you? Where can they find the book?

Jennifer: You can find the book at your favorite online booksellers. You can go to Wellnesswellplayed.com to connect directly with me and also get a list of where the books are.

Michelle: And you’ll also get a signed copy if you buy via Wellnesswellplayed.com will you not?

Jennifer: It’s true.

Michelle: I got my signed copy. Oh, thank you very much, Jen. We could talk about this endlessly. If you have any questions at all, seek out Jennifer through the weblink above. Thanks for your time, Jennifer.

Jennifer: Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle: I’ve got to go curate my playlist now.

Jennifer: Have fun.

Michelle: Should have had a soundtrack in the background while we’re doing this. Thanks everybody. My name is Michelle Cederberg reminding you, you’ve got one chance to do this life. I say Dare to Live It Big, and dare do it with just a little bit more purposeful music in your life. That’s going to be happening for me real soon.

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Michelle Cederberg, CSP, MKin, BA Psyc

Empowering today’s dreamers, leaders and go-getters to create the life and career they want.