Last week, I posted the image below on my Instagram feed, and people seemed to really love the concept. It’s one of my most popular posts — and, though the concept is positive, the lyrics I wrote about aren’t typical of what I usually share on Instagram (aka, not the most inspirational!).
The attention this photo received definitely piqued my interest so I thought I’d write about the process of what I like to call Song Lyric Therapy (or SLT, for short). Even though it’s fairly obvious how it works — find lyrics, write it down, reflect — sometimes it’s helpful to have all the steps in front of you to motivate you to actually do it.
Music is an incredibly powerful force in my life, and lyrics in particular have always had a profound impact on me. For 20+ years I’ve been practicing SLT and it’s pretty amazing. And it works no matter what emotional situation you’re in. I’ve done it when I’m falling in love, when I’m going through a break-up, when I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve also combined with Quote Therapy, which follows the same general process, but instead of lyrics, you use quotes. Sometimes I even get crazy and combine the two, haha!
If you’re a lyric lover like I am, here’s how you can use SLT to get in touch with how you’re feeling:
COMPILE A PLAYLIST
You might already have some songs that you’re listening to on repeat, or you might want to create a special playlist just for your specific situation. I originally to made playlists in iTunes, focusing on specific situations, like: The Positive Breakup, Staying Sober, Single at Christmas, etc. I then started making my weekly playlists on YouTube so you guys could listen too, and now I’ve finally gotten Spotify and I’m making lots of themed playlists over there (some recent ones include: Autumn Woods, Be Here Now, Hang in There, Love Yourself, Positive Vibes, etc.). Where you create your playlist is up to you — just make sure it’s somewhere you can listen often and easily add songs if needed.
GET INTO THE GROOVE
This step is all about listening closely to the words. Listen to your playlist over and over again. Some people (like me!) are super lyric-focused and can’t help but listen to the lyrics and try to apply it in some way to their own lives. But some people aren’t as into lyrics and in this step they’ve gotta step up their listening game. There are no right or wrong lyrics to look for; the key is to pay attention to the words that speak to you, that give you a feeling of, Wow! that sounds just like what I’m experiencing right now! If you pay attention to songs you’re drawn to, you’ll realize that you love them so much because you relate to them in some way.
WRITE THE WORDS
After listening to your playlist frequently, it’s time to document those words. I prefer to handwrite the lyrics and add color, doodles, etc. to make the process a bit more fun, but you can write yours in an form you like: in a notebook, on your computer, in a note-taking app on your phone. Whatever method is easiest and most inspiring for you, do that. As you’re listening to the songs, aim to pinpoint one or two lines from that song that really speak to you. While you can write down huge chunks of a song (or the whole thing!), I’ve found it most useful to really narrow my focus to one or two lines so that I can go deeper on those in Step 4.
MAKE TIME TO REFLECT
After writing down your lyrics, set them aside for a bit before coming back and re-reading them. You can highlight words that really speak to you (as I did above). As I’m reviewing the lyrics, I ask myself, Why did this line resonate with me? What about these words makes me feel something? What does this particular phrase say about how I’m feeling? Sometimes I just answer these internally and reflect on them, and sometimes I write down my replies. Either way, reflecting on the lyrics provides not only better understanding of the situation, but also of how you feel about the situation. And knowing your feelings is key to choosing how you think, act, and react.
I’ve been using SLT for as long as I can remember, and I find it incredibly useful. If you’re looking to do some soul-searching, if you’re feeling uncertain about some aspect of your life, or if you’re just curious about connecting with your feelings, I highly recommend giving this a try!