[The Music Blog] Music for the pain: 5 pro-tips to help you curate the perfect playlist to combat anxiety

Music they say is the ultimate form of empathy. Presumably, this is why sound therapists have spent years of researching music to evolve a methodology for restoration of health and relaxation. Personally I became aware of the ability of music to help ease stress and anxiety after discovering Brian Eno’s ambient albums, a sound specifically engineered for the calmest possible auditory effect on our psyche. I have limited most of my research on music and anxiety to only need to know information, but I am also aware online recommendations for stress-relieving music are usually obscure playlists with unknown names. To help curate an anxiety playlist of your own, here are 5 mental markers to follow

Know thy self
In a country like Nigeria where mental health is rarely discussed, stress elements may be difficult to identify. However for setting up a playlist, it is important to attempt to identify the emotions you feel and why you feel them without being too hard on your self. Self-awareness about your current mental state could serve as a ladder out of the deep well of depression and general anxiety. Once you narrow down your head space to a specific range of emotions, you can begin selection of tracks to stack on your playlists based on how you’d alternatively like to feel.

Music you already know
Music is capable of triggering memories therefore it is important to remember songs that have made you feel a certain way in the past. Particularly, nostalgic songs can absorb our attention, and transport us to the particular time and place the music brings to mind. This will go a long way in helping your playlist take shape. The key here is to pick songs that won’t require a lot of thinking or focus on lyrical content.

Mood based selections
Depending on its tempo, volume and harmony, music can have varying effects on our mental state. A great way to curate a playlist based on mood is to make selections based on how you feel in the moment, internally and externally. Tempos should match your heartbeat. Volumes should be loud or soft depending on how you’re feeling at the time versus how you want to feel. And for harmonies, you should consider how the primary instrument on the song makes you feel, a mellow violin based song could be a better pick over heavy metal guitars and vice-versa.

Relatablity and intuition
One of the most discerning features of an anxiety playlist is music that speaks to your inner being. Certain songs are capable of relating with our struggles on a fabric level and they should be your go-to for comfort and emotional validation. According to research, when you’re listening to sad music when you’re depressed for example, our brain produces a hormone called prolactin, the same one our brain produces after we cry. This hormone helps to helps to stimulate feelings of comfort, beginning the process of making us feel better. It is however most important to follow your gut when choosing songs that speak to you instead of just queuing songs that you think you should be listening to.

Enjoy yourself
If you’re not going to feel the music touching your soul where it is most delicate, you don’t need it on your playlist.

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