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I have a happy song. I wrote about it in a recent post on how I’m conditioning myself out of depression.

The song is “Good Life” by OneRepublic. My husband hates this song.

“For a song to make me happy, it has to be inspiring,” he said. “Like ‘Tonight, Tonight’ by Smashing Pumpkins.”

“OK, but being inspired is different than being happy in the moment. It’s big-picture dreaming compared to appreciating the small things in life.”

I was trying to help him understand why the lyrics of “Good Life” are so uplifting for me. Sometimes I need to be reminded, “what’s there to complain about.” Sometimes I need to hear the words that help me remember that “we have so much to feel good about.” Sometimes I need to be told, “when you’re happy like a fool, let it take you over.”

The words are specifically and directly the opposite of a depression that tells me, “there’s no reason to be happy; there’s nothing good in life.”

We got into a bit of a debate about what makes a happy song. I think he hoped I’d find a song that he likes so that he wouldn’t be annoyed every time I play the happy song.

“I’m sorry, but lyrics like ‘crucify the insincere tonight’ just doesn’t have the same affect,” I said. “But it’s OK if that song works for you, as long as it’s also OK that ‘Good Life’ does work for me. I picked it because of the lyrics, but also because it was already associated with a happy memory.”

Two years ago we went on the Winter Wine Road with a group of friends. The trip was in the middle of a bad bout with depression. We spent two days visiting wineries in Sonoma County, and at one stop I walked back to our rental van arm-in-arm with one of my girlfriends who came with us. The simplicity of savoring a wine tasting, strolling through beautiful wine country, linked to someone who loves me hit me all at once, and I said out loud, “This reminds me of that OneRepublic song, ‘Good Life.’ ” My friend agreed, and we played the song at full volume for everyone to hear as we drove to the next winery.

In that moment, I tasted sweet wine lingering on my tongue; I saw abundant vines cascading over the hills; I smelled crisp and fresh air; I heard friends talking and laughing; I felt loved and connected. The moment embodied so much goodness that I couldn’t deny it. This happened before I implemented the experiment of conditioning my mood, and ever since then the song reminds me of that wonderful moment of realization and gratitude. So when I needed a happy song, I didn’t think twice about choosing “Good Life.”

I’ve been getting a lot of interest in seeing a happy song playlist. I have my own, but would love to add some from readers. Leave your happy song in the comments and I’ll publish a playlist soon!

Photo by my friend Robert Coombs.

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11 thoughts on “how I got my happy song and use it to change my mood

  1. Thank you for an insightful post. You are so right that a happy song is about more than the song itself; it is about the associations. For a long time anything by Jack Johnson gave me a warm feeling because my daughter introduced me to him.

    I also like when songs take the presumptive close, I Feel Good, which I always associate with summer days at the baseball field, proclaims that I knew I would.

    I also like songs with a sense of history, a little staying power. I am now on a quest to find new interpretations of the standard Feeling Good. You fish in the sea know what I mean.

    I am looking forward to seeing all of your readers’ happy song suggestions.

  2. Love this post, and your ever present candor in sharing you life as it plays out in tackling real struggles that we as women experience more often than we admit. Your vulnerable strength has many times been the solidarity I’d needed to get my head far enough above the water to breathe and (maybe more importantly) learn in the midst of something that threatened to just swallow me whole.

    In that, I think I’ve unwittingly been participating in your happy song experiment for quite awhile. My song wasn’t rooted in anything super significant. I wish I could pin a happy memory to it to give the concept a happy ring. But the truth is, it happened deep inside one of those dark moments, where you feel like nothing could ever get better, feel less bleak, or be right in the world again. I kind of want to go analyze the lyrics & ascribe some healing power to holding onto the words. But honestly- it just moved me. It broke into my dark place and for half a moment, I felt like things might one day be ok.

    1. Thanks, Kari! I think one of the greatest things about this whole idea is that we can be intentional in creating those associations. So you don’t have a happy memory to associate with the song — go make one! It’s so powerful, and it really works.

  3. My song is Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). I think it reminds me that ‘stuff’ happens and life is a journey, so we should be having the time of our life. 🙂

  4. I love it Jana, I don’t know where to begin about how real the lyrics are but the line “Happy like a fool, let it take you over” is one of my favorite. Although, ,there’s nothing foolish about it, letting go and letting joy consume us is one of the most healing things in life. It seems many of us are predisposed to allow hurt and pain rule us at times when all it takes is remembering that happy song or place and allowing the lyrics and melody to move us on to a better place.

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