Moody Monday: How to beat a bad mood, part 1

Crappy moods. They happen to the best of us. Sometimes it’s because we are fixated on something, and that something is bad. This is called variously: brooding, ruminating, or stewing. In my family, we call this being a “worrier” and what it means is that you have the unfortunate habit of ceaselessly reflecting on painful experiences and fears about the future. Or mostly just petty annoyances. Now, full disclosure. I am a worrier and I come from a long line of worriers. My father was a worrier, his father was worrier before him, and probably the chain of worry goes back to the dawn of time and is somehow encoded in my DNA.There is nothing good about brooding, ruminating or worrying. According to people who should know, brooding actually stressful, paralyzing, addictive and fosters other negative behavior like drinking too much and eating disorders. Nothing good comes of it.

So how not to brood?  I guess if you are aware that you are doing it you can just force yourself to think about something else. But for me that’s like saying, “Don’t think about elephants.” which just makes it impossible to think about anything but elephants.

Recently, the NYT published a study that showed taking a pleasant walk in nature actually stops brooding. By this they mean it actually changes what is going on in your brain when you brood. I decided to try this out the last time I was particularly annoyed. I’m looking at you, American Airlines.  You, and your crazy carrier fees on BA.

Results, well, as a way to alleviate acute brooding, I would give the nature walk two stars out of five. It’s probably something that might be a good idea to do habitually to make your disposition sunnier — not as a way to alleviate acute annoyances. And, it’s not that I don’t love nature–nothing relaxes me like camping. And people who like camping as much as I do are a pretty small club.

But anyway a good playlist for walking. I think it’s upbeat, and quirky and interesting and has plenty of slightly weird stuff that should distract the average person from their internal monologue and help beat a bad mood.

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Pluto Playlist: Let’s talk about spaceships…

Reddit Toy Pluto

For me, this week’s awesomeness had everything to do with the Pluto flyby. I was in the Astronomy Club back in college and I have a passing familiarity with the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, oh yeah. But, Pluto, man, no clue. People were even waffling about Pluto being a mistake, not really a planet. Recently discovered in 1930, scientists decided to demote Pluto to a dwarf planet in 2006.

pluto dumped me

As I recall, people were generally not too happy about the change; it seemed kind of mean, and the revision seemed to make things unnecessarily complicated for everyone.

But it turns out that tiny Pluto with it’s heart-shaped patch, is the most ADORABLE plant ever. Maybe we should just start calling it a BABY planet, not a dwarf planet (no offense, dwarfs, btw.)

So to celebrate this week’s astronomical awesomeness and adorability. I made a playlist. In honor of Pluto, this playlist includes all of my favorite songs about our solar system (and even some new ones I discovered to fill in the gaps) IN PLANET ORDER. Enjoy!

Also, will someone start selling those pluto felt toys on Etsy, please? I want to buy one for everyone I know.

 

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Music for Mornings – An Everyday Playlist

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So tell me the truth: do you lie bed in to the last possible moment, then leap up and run around in a panicked fashion, leaving a path of destruction in your wake, and barely catching the bus to work? Some people think that getting up a little early is a better way to live. I am not over-ambitious in the morning, but I have found that turning on a great playlist in the morning makes the whole day better.

These days I usually get up about 6:30 and drink some coffee. I sit quietly and stare into the darkness until it’s time to rouse the family and get the Owlets off to school. Then I crank up this Spotify playlist. It’s mostly dreamy songs about love, just to set a happy tone for the day.

Owl Muse Wake Up! Love < Listen on Spotify

1. Robot – Cue Fanfare

2. Lovefool – The Cardigans

3. Lovers Who Uncover – The Little Ones

4. New Years – Asobi Seksu

5. No Spare Key – Honeyblood

6. Beast – Ex Hex

7. Bedroom Eyes – Dum Dum Girls

8. I Turn My Camera On – Spoon

9. Violent Shiver – Benjamin Booker

10. Bang A Gong – T. Rex

11. Just One Drink – Jack White

12. Phantom Limb – The Shins

13. Up With People – Lambchop

I start my daily chant: breakfast-breakfast-breakfast-clothes-clothes-clothes-socks-socks-socks-comb-your-hair-hair-hair-brush-your-teeth-teeth-teeth-put-on-your-shoes-shoes-shoes–boots!!!! No flip flops please! It’s 5 degrees out!!! homework-homework-homework-coat-coat-coat-hat-hat-hat-gloves-gloves-gloves.GO GO GO GET OUT GET OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW NOW NOW. REALLY NOW. DOOR SLAMMED AND LOCKED. Haha, you aren’t getting back in here, babies! I don’t care what you forgot.

I have tried various approaches to get the Owlets out of the house–begging, bribing, shouting, crying, making elaborate posters, charts and multi-media presentations; dramatic re-enactments with stuffed animals, etc. Did that work? Yeah…Not so much. The best solution so far was a simple backpack checklist.

“I’m made you a list,” I said to the Owlets.

“Are there pictures on it, mama? ‘Cause you know I can’t read, remember?” says the little guy.

Touche, my boy! Oddly, it worked anyway.

  • Lunch
  • Snack
  • Water Bottle
  • Homework Folder
  • Gym Clothes
  • Gym Shoes
  • Hat/Gloves/Scarf
  • Snow Pants

Okay, it’s April already. We might be okay leaving the snow pants at home. We might. Also I broke down and signed them up for school lunch. I decided I would rather have them not-eat the organic, free range, healthy school lunch that not-eat the bag lunch I get up early to pack for them.

But the Owlets are getting better! And they pump each other up, “Let’s go get dressed–fast, fast, fast–NO distractions, okay? No distractions, go, go, go!”

Hope springs eternal.

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Brutally Honest Yoga – A Workout Playlist

So, yoga. I reluctantly added it to my workout schedule.

Some people like yoga. I am not one of those people. For me, one of the so-called benefits of yoga, body awareness, is almost unbearable. Yoga always lets me know I’m stiff, unbalanced, inflamed and rigid. Thanks for the feedback, Yoga!

Well, anyway, here’s the playlist. There are some favorite songs that ease the pain.

OWL MUSE YOGA PLAYLIST < listen on Spotify

1. New Wild Everywhere – Great Lake Swimmers.

2. Talking Backwards – Real Estate.

3. Ghost – Neutral Milk Hotel.

4. Maniac – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

5. Swim Club – The Cave Singers

6. Jesus, etc. – Wilco.

7. Out of Season – Royale.

My yoga routine goes like this. The first part is pretty close to your basic sun salutation cycle.

Mountain, Standing Backbend, Half Moon. Swan Dive to Forward Fold. Repeat 5 times.

Jump or walk back to chaturanga (plank)(Hold 30 seconds or as long as you can). Cobra straight into Down Dog.  Repeat 5 times.

Down Dog to Forward Lunge. Do each side (obviously). Repeat 3 times.

This is a pretty standard sequence I think here’s a link to something similar.

I might do this 2 or 3 times.

The next sequence starts by hanging out in Thunderbolt. This is really for loosening up the knees. Then Child’s Pose. Then Tabletop, Then Cat/Cow and Child’s Pose Again. This video will give you the idea. Maybe go through this a few times.

Then a bunch of stretches you may remember from gym class in Junior High School. Butterfly pose or bound angle, some neck rolls, and seated forward bend. Then do a bunch of forward bend variations — with your legs in different positions. Here are some examples. Then do some twists, like this one.

The Shavasana – this called corpse pose — but if that is too macabre for you you can call it the jellyfish stretch. I always start this at the beginning of the last song at the latest.

 

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Vintage Valentine’s Day Playlist on Spotify

Oh, Valentine’s Day! Oh, once upon a time it was as simple as a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen roses. A card from the drugstore. A nice dinner and a bottle of wine. Or so I imagine. Then we all had to go and get so smart. Valentine’s day isn’t a real holiday, we nod knowingly.  “We don’t do hallmark holidays,” we sniff. But I’m not one to pass up a bit of fun whenever I can get it. (Okay, that’s a total lie, but at least I’m trying. Trying to be fun.)

These days, we celebrate Valentine’s Day with a wink and a nod. One way to make the day romantic is by picking a surprising soundtrack. And the Owl Muse can help you out with that.

For Valentine’s Day, I’ve gone back, way back, to some unabashedly romantic songs. I owned Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You” years ago, hot damn, there is not a bad song on that record. So I took a page from that book, found a lot of old blues, jazz, big band, and lounge type stuff that really floats my boat. I hope you (and yours) enjoy it, too!

Love and Kisses, The Owl Muse

OWL MUSE VINTAGE VALENTINE’S DAY MIXTAPE < listen on Spotify

  1. Fly Me to the Moon/Julie London
  2. I Only Have Eyes For You/Billie Holiday
  3. Le Poisson Des Mers Du Sud/Isabelle Antena
  4. I Never Loved a Man/Aretha Franklin
  5. I Just Want To Make Love to You/Etta James
  6. Decollage/Thievery Corporation
  7. Hallelujah, I Love Her So/Ray Charles
  8. Walking After Midnight/Sandy Kelly, Patsy Cline
  9. Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries/Judy Garland
  10. In the Mood/Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
  11. The Girl from Impanema/Billy Francis and His Orchestra
  12. Love and Kisses/Ella Fitzgerald
  13. L-O-V-E/Nat King Cole
  14. You’re My Thrill/Peggy Lee
  15. Devil May Care/Jamie Cullum
  16. Turn Me On/Norah Jones
  17. Dance Me to the End of the Love/Madeleine Peyroux
  18. I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So/Sarah Vaughn

 

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New Wave Circuit – A Workout Playlist

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday at The Owl Muse!

We are almost done with this little project. Cardio. Check. Weights. Check. Spinning. Check. Plyo. Check. All I have got left is Circuit Training.

The word circuit made me think of technology, which made me think of science, which made me think of the early days of MTV, and 80s alternative music which was sort of obsessed with kitsch-y sci-fi themes.

Now, it almost makes me queasy using “80s” and “workout” in the same sentence. Weird and wonderful as the eighties were, there was something about physical fitness back then that was just warped. Olivia Newton John, anyone?

Okay, I will spare you further foray in the tortured catacombs of my brain, but this mixtape is certainly nostalgic with lots of New Wave. If you listen to Channel 33 on SiriusXM, or follow Slicing Up Eyeballs, you will enjoy it.

OWL MUSE CIRCUIT PLAYLIST < Play on Spotify

1. Birthday/The Sugarcubes – Warm up

2. There Must Be An Angel/The Eurythmics – First Circuit –  Move quickly through four stations that train legs, back, abs, and chest. I do kettlebell swings, bent over rows, crunches and push-ups. Just do as many as you can with good form, move quickly to the next station, and keep going until the song is over. Sort of like musical chairs.

3. Please Remain Seated/OMD – Rest during this song. Just rest.

4. Don’t You (Forget About Me)/Simple Minds – Do some sort of cardio at an intense/sprint pace for the duration of this song.

5. Glory/Liz Phair – Rest. Rest for the whole song. Really. If you don’t need the rest you are not working hard enough.

6. This is the Day/The The – Repeat the circuit of legs, back, abs, and chest.

7. Him Dancing/Throwing Muses – Rest again.

8. Girlfriend is Better/Talking Heads – Sprint cardio – go!

9. Welcome to the Working Week/Elvis Costello – Rest.

10. Under the Milky Way/The Church – Repeat the circuit of legs, back, abs, and chest.

11. Game of Pricks/Guided By Voices – Rest.

12. Kundalini Express/Love & Rockets – Sprint Cardio – Go!

13. Sharkey’s Day/Laurie Anderson – Stretch

This is a longer workout (almost an hour), but you only have to keep doing one thing for 5 or 6 minutes at a stretch. Circuit workouts are hybrid cardio and resistance workouts that burn a lot of calories. Many people don’t get great results doing long sessions of steady state cardio. I sure don’t. Paleo types are often big on resistance training and are not fans of endurance exercise, for this reason. But don’t misinterpret that to mean that cardio is unnecessary for fitness. Even the paleo people are into short cardio sprints now and then.

*It has come to my attention that Spotify will only let you play these songs in exact order if you have a premium account. If you have a free account it will play them in Shuffle mode. Bummer. You need to do these in order or at least alternate the 5 to 6 minute songs (for the workout bits) with the one minute songs (for recovery).

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Punk Plyo – A Workout Playlist

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday at The Owl Muse. How are those New Year’s resolutions holding? Yeah, mine have fallen to pieces, too. Well, you can always make new ones on Groundhog Day. Yeah, Groundhog Day resolutions. It’s a thing, I swear.

Earlier this month, The Owl Muse shared Spotify playlists for cardioweight training, and spinning, so today it’s all about plyo. Plyo has gained popularity with Crossfit and their crazy box jumping shit. Oh, no I am not dissing Crossfit. At all. Joining a Crossfit Gym is my Groundhog Day Resolution. I swear.

Plyo, short for plyometrics, is a fancy word for jumping and throwing things, so punk seemed the obvious theme. That took me down a road. A riot grrl road, to be precise. There is surprisingly little overlap between the riot grrl songs in our collection and the ones on Spotify. (Spotify, could you get “In Accordance with Natural Law”, by Bikini Kill, pleeeassse?”). So that slowed down the process of making this post, but the good thing is that I discovered The Dollyrots, who are indeed, awesome.

OWL MUSE PLYO PLAYLIST <Play on Spotify*

1. Because I’m Awesome/The Dollyrots – Run in Place

2. Hippy Dippy Doo/Rocket from the Crypt – Squat Jump, Side Hop

3. Real Wild Child/ Joan Jett  – Star Jump, Split Squat Jumps

4. Lucky Guy / The Muffs – Medicine Ball Chest PassSide Pass, & Slam

5. Celebrity Skin/Hole – Stork Hop, Cross Country

6. Take it Off / The Donnas – Medicine Ball Chest PassSide Pass, & Slam

7. Sci Fi Superstar / Bis – Pop UpsBurpee

8. Pretend We’re Dead / L7 – Recover

This is a short workout, it should feel pretty intense. I *aim* for 10 of each exercise, and rest as needed.That’s about 80 jumps and 60 throws, which supposedly “beginner level.” I am waiting for the day when I beat “beginner level.” Some of these I might make 2 or 3. If I’m lucky.

I am indebted to “Boot Camp Matt” for teaching me these moves and I’ll share with you his safety tips. You should strive to land SOFTLY like a cat. It’s more important to land SOFTLY than to get height, otherwise it’s bad for your knees. Also the medicine ball is actually a really good way to break a finger, so think JAZZ HANDS the entire time you are doing them. If you don’t have a medicine ball and a wall and a clear space, you can just do cardio during those breaks. I did not include the box jumps that are so popular because of Crossfit, because I think they are a little too risky. As Matt would say, “I like my teeth.”

*It has come to my attention that Spotify will only let you play these songs in exact order if you have a premium account. If you have a free account it will play them in Shuffle mode. Bummer. I don’t think the exact order is that important here, like it would be in a spinning workout for example. Looking for Work Arounds.

P.S. The awesome photo on this blog is courtesy of Tiffany Findley.

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Disco Spin – A Workout Playlist

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday at The Owl Muse.

Earlier this month, The Owl Muse shared Spotify playlists for cardio and weight training mixtapes, so today it’s all about indoor cycling. You know, like on a stationary bicycle? This particular Spotify playlist for spinning has a distinctly dance music vibe with some of my very favorite EDM, house, and disco tracks.

Indoor cycling is meant to be done in the dark, so I guess I was inspired by the idea of the dance floor. Maybe I should put a disco ball up in my basement, hmmm…

OWL MUSE SPINNING PLAYLIST < Play on Spotify

Okay, get your headphones on and get on that bike. I use a heart rate monitor tells me I have the resistance at the right level of intensity.

WARM UP SONGS – Start with light resistance and ramp up gradually during the warm up. I look for my heart rate to be 110-115 by the end of the first three songs.

1. September/Pomplamoose

2. Oxford Comma/Vampire Weekend

3. Shake Your Booty/KC & The Sunshine Band

THE FIRST HILL – Crank up the resistance! For me this is a standing climb, and I try to get my heart rate up into the zone of 130-140 bpm. Cadence is slower, but if you don’t break a sweat on this part of the workout you probably need to add resistance.

4. Details of the War/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

5. Crown on the Ground/Sleigh Bells

6. Gold Lion/Yeah Yeah Yeahs

RECOVERY – Back off the resistance and get back in the seat.

7. Time to Pretend/MGMT

8. Get Lucky/Daft Punk

THE SECOND HILL –  Put more resistance on your spin bike and get back out of the seat. This is a kinder, gentler hill than the first but it’s still a hill.

9. Woman King/Iron & Wine

10. Let Forever Be/The Chemical Brothers

COOL DOWN SONG – Back off the resistance and bring your heart rate down.

10. Shuggie/Foxygen

STRETCHING – Do your best yoga moves. Or just lie on the ground. Whatever.

11. Agaetis Byrjun/Sigur Ros

I have done this workout many, many times.

There are different genres of spinning workouts and this falls into the strength category. The idea is to keep you HR 75%-85% of maximum and keep your cadence around 60-80. I do like the strength workouts on the bike because I feel like I’m building power in the legs and reinforcing my delicate knees. You can check out Spinning.com for tips on form.

I have two more spotify workout mixtapes/exercise routines to share with you before January is over. Next up, Punk for Plyo! Because I know you LOVE burpees!

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Rock n Roll Lifting – A Workout Playlist

My favorite playlist for weight training is on Spotify. People seem to agree that rock (or metal)  is the way go for weight training. I think the idea is that intense music supports the intense effort and concentration needed to repeatedly lift and lower heavy things.

The weight lifting mix  starts off with “Divine Hammer” by the Breeders, then “Lola” by The Kinks, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” David Bowie’s “Breaking Glass,” “Sixteen Saltines” by Jack White. The New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis” adds just a little punk to the mix, and “Foggy Notion” by The Velvet Underground finishes up the set. This list is 35 minutes long which is about right for me.

If you are a guy who works out, you probably have at least considered lifting weights. If you’re a girl, probably not so much. A lot of women avoid weight training and prefer cardio, for any number of bad reasons. Weight training will make your body more compact even at the same weight.

There are definitely people who really focus on weight training as the core of their fitness plan. I have tried this and I was not a fan, but I do try to get a “big muscle breakdown” session in at least once or twice a week and balance that out with cardio intervals, spinning, plyo and circuits. By circuits, I mean a alternating between cardio and body weight exercises. I like mixing it up because it’s fun and functional–that is I am stronger, more agile and slimmer.

My super simple weight training routine is as follows:

1. Squats – 3 sets x 6 reps, with a 3 minute rest between sets.

2. Bench Press – 3 sets x 3 reps, more 3 minute rests in between.

3. Deadlifts – 3 sets x 5 reps, with 3 minute rests in between.

…and you’re done!

Form is important, as is lifting heavy. I keep a little notebook to make sure I’m adding just a teensy-weensy little bit of extra weight each time.

 

 

 

 

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Eclectic Intervals – A Workout Playlist

Welcome to Workout Wednesday at the Owl Muse!

Around here, January is the month for setting goals and changing habits. For a lot of us who sit around all day, that means moving more. “Move it or lose” it as they say, and I think that pertains to mental health as much as physical functioning. I have zero credentials as a fitness expert, but I have tried numerous different approaches over the years, and I will share with you the routines that I have found to be most effective for me. YMMV, but I have nothing to gain from selling you on a particular approach, so I’m unbiased in that regard.

My basic insight about exercise is just this: doing something is better than doing nothing. If you like cardio, do cardio. If you like lifting weights, lift weights. If you like biking, bike. I also added a couple of workouts inspired by a boot camp (Thanks, Matt!) I used to go to–plyometrics and circuit training–because (i think) they are fun and relatively easy to do at home with minimal equipment.

And, after all,  this is a music blog — so I have developed workouts that are guided by awesome playlists. This one is a real mix — old songs and new — different genres and styles. I have also found that good music really motivates me to work out and not give up after 3 minutes like I would with a workout video. Sometimes just watching Jillian Michaels on the TV is enough work, right?

The first mixtape is a 45 minute workout with a set of two and three minute songs, perfect for cardio. One thing I will say about cardio is that I have found that doing intervals (also called HIIT which sounds more painful than it is) is more helpful than doing steady state cardio. The idea is to go full-on for two minutes, recover for three. Rinse. Repeat. This will work for any type of cardio. Do whatever exercise works for your fitness level and suits your fancy: sprint/run, jog/walk, climb stairs, jump rope, use any sort of cardio machine. The only thing is to go hard, then go easy (lower your heart rate but don’t stop moving!). If it’s too easy, you can switch it up — go hard for three minutes and recover for two. I use a heart rate monitor and keep my pulse between 110 and 135.

OWL MUSE CARDIO INTERVALS < listen to this mix on spotify

1. Blue Jeans (RAC mix)/Lana Del Ray/RAC – warm up

2. Motor Away/Guided by Voices – go fast

3. Huddle Formation/The Go! Team – recover

4. Poppy Day/Brighter – go fast

5. Coma Complacency/Japandroids – recover

6. Something I Learned Today/Husker Du – go fast

7. In Our Angelhood/Cocteau Twins – recover

8. Deep Sea Diving Suit/The Magnetic Fields – go fast

9. Gotta Get Away/The Black Keys – recover

10. Song 2/Blur – go fast

11. Argonauts/The Little Ones – cool down

12. Afternoon/Youth Lagoon – stretch

13. Every Other Freckle/Alt-J  – stretch

BTW, I am just music fan who works out, not a medical or exercise professional, so use common sense and check with your doctor if you don’t normally workout. Also, don’t run outside in the dark or when it’s slippery. And watch for cars!

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