Songs for the Blues: How to curate the perfect playlist for when you’re feeling weary

Making the best of music for the pain

Words by Fisayo Okare and Ehimenem Agweh

You are allowed to get anxious. I get anxious. We get anxious. You are probably anxious this minute. I could say ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.’ But that won’t help much, would it?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear or panic. Music helps to soothe it. Two things are central to this, getting better: feeling and forgetting. Essentially, music helps as a distraction and it is effective with people who can easily become absorbed in a cognitive activity like listening and immersion in the lyricism and tempo of the instruments.

Create an empty playlist folder

This is the very beginning of your playlist. Think of it as the conception. Give it a name you identify with either in your moments of great stress or in calmer times. Either way, it should be a name that reminds you to step back and remember to chill out. By creating your folder, you create a transferable file you can spread across devices, or perhaps even upload to a cloud service like iCloud or Google Drive.

Add songs you like to the playlist

In the end, it all comes down to how much or how well you enjoy the material in the folder. Put in songs that you like. Songs which get you moving and bopping your head to the rhythm or remind you of better times. These songs should have staying power and be useful in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Add songs with relatable lyrics

Some music therapists may recommend that it would be preferable to go with a tracklisting with very little emphasis on human vocals, what you can do instead however is to choose songs with relatable meaning. Music is said to be the greatest medium of human empathy, this is why we often feel better if we listen to sad songs when we’re sad. The mutuality of experience allows us a hold glimmer of hope that we are going to be alright.

Throw in songs with soothing instrumentals

Tempos are very important when choosing songs for an anti-anxiety playlist. Soothing music with a mellow tempo and few words can help slow your breathing and heart rate to match the music. Instrumentals provide calm and a sense of peace to the mind which in time induces a meditative state. Look for piano solos, flutes and violins as possible additions to the playlist.

Work your way up from slow tracks to significantly faster paced songs

For your playlist, curation is more important than number, so do yourself a favour by toggling off your shuffle button. This is important so you can match your emotions with the gradual switch from mellower somber tempos to faster-paced candy pop tempos. The first few songs should create the atmosphere and settle you in. Vary the rhythms until they get to the up-tempo regions. Keep the fast paced songs light and not to heavy on the bass. The goal is to calm your mind not to rile it.

Finish up on a chilled note

Your last few tracks should be able to ease you into your work. Keep them light, simple and free from sudden jumps in pitch and rhythm. When your heart beat mellows with the same pace of the music, then you know you are good, so the melody you choose should be in tune with this intention.

Go and live your life

Your playlist is your friend. Now that you have your anxiety reducing songs in your basket, go on and live your life knowing that you have your playlist with you for when it all gets glum again. Update it as often as possible and remember, life isn’t going anywhere without you.

Featured Image: Anxiety by Giuseppe Cristiano

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