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From Anxiety to Zen: Create a Music Playlist to Meet Your Various Needs

By Sara Butler

From Anxiety to Zen: Create a Music Playlist to Meet Your Various Needs

On an instinctual level that is difficult to explain, humans understand that music makes life better. For thousands of years, humans have harnessed the power of music to bring comfort and joy. Music is central to both happy and sad occasions. It’s there for birthdays, weddings, graduations, and funerals. And when there’s an insurmountable task ahead, music helps to motivate.

Music is deeply woven into the fabric of being human and all the emotions that come with it. The key is to understand how you can use music to manipulate your moods and make a bad day better -- or make a lazy day more productive. You only need to know where to start to create the perfect playlist to take you from anxiety to Zen.

The Impact of Music on Emotions

The effects of music have been studied for decades. On a physical level, listening to music can reduce your blood pressure and lower your heart rate. But it can go beyond that by impacting different areas of the brain that play a role in mental health and emotion, such as:

Lower stress - Music has been found to reduce stress in people because of the emotional regulation it offers. It allows the person listening to disengage from things they may find distressing and focus on the music itself. Lyrics of songs also help to give voice to experiences or feelings someone may be having, which works to change your perspective and makes for lower stress all around.

Feeling happier - When you play music and give it your attention, your brain responds with a big reward: It will release dopamine. Dopamine is a natural feel-good chemical that can work to boost your mood and ward off depression, reminding everyone of how powerful the link is between music and emotion.

Relaxation - While you already know that music helps reduce stress, it’s also important to know that it helps relax your brain as well. Researchers have found that music at about 60 beats per minute syncs with the alpha waves of the brain, offering instant relaxation. That’s the power of music.

How the Body Reacts to Live Music

Although listening to any music and creating your musical playlists will have big benefits, listening to live music has a few special effects. One of the biggest differences is the community that live music brings you into. Whether you’re at a music festival like South by Southwest or Coachella, or a stadium or showroom concert by Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, or Pink -- or even listening to the Saturday night house band -- the shared emotion and energy felt at live shows are unique when people come together for the sole purpose of celebrating music. The joy and kinship found in the connections made with those around you provide a big mental health boost.

There are physical benefits as well. Studies have found that when someone listens to music live, their bodies reduce the production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. If you have high levels of cortisol continually, then it can lead to poor health outcomes such as diabetes and heart disease. So, going to live shows regularly may just save your life!

How Different Types of Music Influences Emotions

Whether you love upbeat music or relaxing music, one thing is certain: different types of music have a different impact on your emotions.

Classical music - Classical music is good for focus and concentration, which is why many people listen to it when they study. It stimulates the brain to secrete chemicals that help to improve your memory and learning.

Heavy metal - Those who love a little heavy metal probably love it because it helps them feel a strong sense of self-identity.

Pop - Most people love pop music and that’s likely because it can work to enhance physical ability with its upbeat tempo and provides a great distraction from stress.

Rap music - Researchers have found that rap music, aside from leveling up a person’s motivation, also positively impacts motor function. You feel as if you can take on the world. Thanks, Jay-Z.

Jazz - Jazz is known for soothing the mind and easing anxiety, which is why many people love John Coltrane after a stressful day.

Broadway - Broadway music is often inspirational and uplifting, so if you need a pick-me-up, then put on your favorite.

Country - Often associated with themes of love, heartbreak, and nostalgia, country music can elicit feelings of sadness and depression -- or break you out of a funk.

Blues - Soulful melodies and lyrics about hardship and struggle can evoke emotions straight from the Mississippi Delta that range from sadness to resilience.

Rock and roll - Listening to rock -- and there are various genres -- has been linked to feelings of excitement, happiness, and energy while lowering stress and anxiety.

Reggae - Relaxing with Bob Marley is just that, as reggae music typically promotes feelings of relaxation, happiness, and social connectedness.

Create a Playlist

Where do you start when you want to create a playlist that can improve your mood? Curating a playlist of specific songs with a result of the emotional experience you’re looking for isn’t that difficult, you have to only think of a few songs in each genre and then use them to direct you to other similar songs.

It’s also worth noting that it’s OK to lean into negative emotions once in a while. If you’re feeling angry, you can find some release in creating an anger playlist to help you let go of it. The same can be said for feeling sad because all emotions are relevant.

Here are a few songs to help you get started:

Happy - “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince because no playlist would be complete without his royal highness. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is another classic.

Sad - “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday will leave a mark, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor will linger in your soul forever.

Motivating - You can’t leave “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor out of a motivational playlist, it’s simply not done. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem will also get you going.

Angry - Score another win for Eminem with “The Way I Am” in the rage anthem category. If you’re looking for something a little less rowdy, Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” will do the trick.

Bored - When you’re bored, just about anything will do. May we suggest “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake or “Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga to get you out of your funk.

Calm - Anything by Coldplay will do here, but you may want to start with “Strawberry Swing.” Also, “Such Great Heights” by Iron and Wine is solid.

Confidence - If you need a boost, then “Roar” by Katy Perry or “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera will do the trick.

Any mood, any time - “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley because everyone gets joy from being Rick-rolled.

Music can do a variety of things for you. Whatever music elicits in you, create that playlist and feel its power.

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