Back in the day, a mixtape was the best way to capture what kids today call #mood. Today we could all use some auditory uplift, as COVID-related mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, are skyrocketing.
Of course, data-driven Spotify knows this, reporting in October for World Mental Health Day that there’s been a 50% increase in demand for mental-health-themed playlists, with 57% more searches for “mindfulness,” “self-care,” and “calm.” And their year-end “Wrapped” revealed a 180% jump in listening for health- and wellness-related podcasts.
Still, the joy of the mixtape lies in making it yourself. With all due respect, Spotify’s algorithm put the ear-slicing anthem “Stuck in the Middle With You” from Reservoir Dogs and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on my “Daily Wellness” playlist, so I gotta say dōmo arigatō to Mr. Roboto.
All the more reason to play DJ and spin your own mental health playlist. And now, no finicky cassette tapes needed!
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
The mental health benefits of music are clear: research shows it can help reduce anxiety, pain, insomnia, and blood pressure, and boost mental acuity and memory.
But don’t stop with songs in the key of life. As Psychology Today points out:
A helpful mental health playlist does not need to be refined to just music. Consider exploring other sounds (e.g., nature, binaural beats, singing bowls) that have a positive influence on your state of being.
Studies show that listening to two tones, one in each ear, can help you better regulate stress, focus, and blood pressure. (See: Brian Eno’s ambient classic, “Music for Airports.”) And nature sounds can soothe the fight-flight-freeze response.
Also, don’t forget about mental-health-related podcasts. Not only do they give you insight and information, but research shows they support improved critical thinking.
Get Off the Crazy Train
When putting together your mental wellness playlist, there are a few things to consider and prioritize:
- Sweet emotion: Check your favorite songs at the door — if they don’t conjure positive sentiments, leave them off the list.
- Anger is an energy: No aggressive tunes in the mix, either. Studies show violent music elicits aggressive thoughts and behavior.
- Got to choose: Curate your playlist according to your needs, including grounding influences when you’re anxious or mood-boosters when you’re down.
- Spirit of radio: Get your pod on with top-rated mental health-related shows, including The Happiness Lab, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, Insane in the Men Brain, and Therapy for Black Girls.
And don’t be afraid to dance this mess around. After all, it only feels like it’s the end of the world as we know it, and times like these can drain you. Stop feeling all mixed up by creating a playlist filled with good vibrations for a lovely day.
5 Steps to Help You Make a Mental Health Playlist (Psychology Today)
And here’s all 18 musical references:
- Stuck in the Middle With You (Stealers Wheel)
- Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
- Mr. Roboto (Styx)
- Don’t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)
- Songs in the Key of Life (Album by Stevie Wonder)
- Music for Airports, 1/1 (Brian Eno)
- Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)
- Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith)
- Rise (Public Image LTD)
- Got to Choose (Kiss)
- Spirit of Radio (Rush)
- Dance This Mess Around (The B-52s)
- It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) (REM)
- Times Like These (Foo Fighters)
- Drain You (Nirvana)
- All Mixed Up (The Cars)
- Good Vibrations (Beach Boys)
- Lovely Day (Bill Withers)