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Dynamic Lynks Blog

Playlists for Emotions

As our #30DaysofGratitude series winds down, we want to leave you with tools to practice gratitude and positive emotional expression every day of the year! One of the tools we use in our sessions to practice emotional regulation is playlist making. The beauty of playlists is that they can be created specifically for each individual's preference and we can use music as a tool to express or regulate a variety of emotions!

Music for Emotional Regulation

A tool that is key to the Music Therapists' arsenal for emotional regulation goals is the ISO Principle. The ISO Principle is a term and tool specific to the field of Music Therapy, but it is a resource you can use every day.

What is the ISO Principle?

“[Iso-principle is] a technique by which music is matched with the mood of a client, then gradually altered to affect the desired mood state. This technique can also be used to affect physiological responses such as heart rate and blood pressure”

(Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008).

Playlists with Principle

The ISO Principle is an excellent tool to keep in mind when creating a playlist for yourself, or for others, to elicit a specific emotion.

  1. Think about your desired emotional state - I want to feel calm, happiness, energetic, joyful

  2. Choose a tempo, instruments, or volume that matches that desired emotional state

  3. Choose a song with the above musical elements in mind that may also have lyrics that reflect your desired emotional state

  4. Now choose songs to match your current emotional state and gradually fill in the worksheet below with songs that might get you from your current state to your desired state

For example, if I am feeling tired and want to get energized for the day I might choose the following:

The goal of the ISO Principle is to meet you where you are and bring you to your desired mood state, through music. You can use as many songs as you want to get from one place to another. For more complex emotions, a longer playlist may be more appropriate. The beauty is, you get to pick what you want and what feels good for you!

A Music Therapist can help you use the ISO Principle more effectively, creating interventions specifically around your mood, areas of need, and desired mood states. To learn more about the range of therapy services we offer for children and adults, email us at

Join us for the end of our #30DaysofGratitude on Instagram and Facebook!


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