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The Iso Principle: Alter your mood with music

Music and mood are deeply connected. Many of us intuitively turn to music to help lift our mood when feeling down or even to help ourselves feel energized when we need to get moving. Science is just beginning to explore the interconnections between music and mood. More research is becoming available to support the idea that music has the power to alter our moods and feelings. Barbara Crowe, Director of Music Therapy at Arizona State University, discusses how "most music can be associated with a particular mood, or how particular tonal arrangements, tempos, styles, etc., can easily reflect a feeling that is recognizable."

The ISO principle is a scientifically proven method used in music therapy. It originated in 1948 and is a method of intervention that music therapists use to alter a patient’s mood. According to Music Therapy Time:

“[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).

The principle goes as follows:

  • The therapist plays a song to match the patient’s current mood or feelings

  • The therapist gradually changes the songs to direct the patient’s mood to the desired state

You don’t have to be a music therapist to use this method. Anyone can make mood-altering playlists with the Iso Principle as a foundation. Here are a few tips for putting this method into practice:

  1. Meet yourself where you’re at: Start with songs that match your current feelings.

  2. Don’t force it: If you're feeling down or low energy, start with peaceful music that matches the energy of what you are feeling. If you are feeling energized, begin with high-energy songs and build from there.

  3. Be mindful of tempo: Quicker tempos for an increase in energy—slower tempos when looking to bring the energy down.

  4. Transition gradually: Use multiple songs to transition from one mood to the next.

Start your day with our first ever Iso playlist titled "Awake". This selection is sure to take you from feeling sleepy and sluggish to awake and productive. Check it out below:


Have you tried using the power of music to alter your mood? We would love to hear from you - let us know on IG at: @healthandbass

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