This past year has many Americans focusing more on their mental health than ever before. But throughout all of the yoga, meditation, and self-care spa days, you may have noticed one thing they all have in common—music.
Research has shown that music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood and mental alertness. Spotify even reported that in 2020 alone, listening time in their mental health categories increased by 50 percent.
Here are the secrets on how to curate your own mental health playlist.
Whether you’re listening to this or that, research has proven that music can trigger dopamine releases in several parts of the brain and affects everything from our mood, to productivity, to memory.
“You can amplify that effect once you put a little science behind it,” said Joseph Cardillo, a psychologist.
To craft your playlists, start with two major purposes. One that will relax you and one that will alert you. Then divvy up the songs into more specific groups like mood-boosting, grounding, or focusing.
“You can constantly use your different playlists to balance yourself,” said Cardillo.
Include some songs from distant memories to engage your mind and activate your habits.
“I play those exact songs my mother used to listen to when she and I worked together,” said Cardillo.
Our brains naturally synchronize to the rhythm of the music we’re listening to. So, to amplify the effects on a run, build a playlist that starts off slower and then increases in BPM as you jog. Or vice versa, if you are typing at work, tailor a playlist with a lower BPM.
“It is like personalized medicine, medicine with absolutely no side effects!” said Cardillo.
And you don’t always have to listen to spa music to relax or rock and roll to hype you up. What’s important is your individual association with the music and forming habits. So, if Kiss helps you fall asleep, then that’s what goes on your playlist.
And if you need good songs fast, apps like Runkeeper can even make a playlist for you that matches your running speed.