How to Improve Your Life with Playlists
You are here because you love music (yes, what do we do without it?). Maybe you are wondering if there’s more to it…
There’s always one song that brightens up your day.
There’s always one song that reminds you of a certain someone.
And the list goes on.
So, is there a way to leverage what music does to us to improve our life?
You might have been doing this, even unconsciously already.
You might have different playlists for different purposes.
An upbeat one for running (#goodvibesonly), an instrumental playlist for studying, a jazz one for chilling after a long day, maybe even a melancholy one for rainy days.
Music affects our moods. In fact, it affects our brains in many ways.
Here at Strike A Chord Music Therapy, an experimental approach is adopted in navigating this thing called life. I’m all about trying and tweaking! So in this article, I will summarise everything I learnt and tried about using playlists to improve health, wellbeing and quality of life on both myself and my clients in music therapy. Now, I know that everyone has different musical preferences, so let’s also see what science says. It’s gonna be a fun experiment!
How Does Music Affect Our Brains 🧠
First thing first: how does music work? Why do we feel motivated to do one more rep while listening to upbeat music, and we stay focused on a task when we put instrumental music in the background?
Music affects our brainwaves in different ways (among various external stimuli). Depending on the frequency, waves can be categorised as delta (1-4 Hz), theta (4-8 Hz), alpha (8-13 Hz) and beta (more than 13 Hz). Each type of brainwave can approximately indicate different states of the brain, for example delta activities (very low frequencies) are dominant during deep sleep or coma; and beta activities are associated with alertness and cognitive processes (Kučikienė & Praninskienė, 2018).
Why Would Designing Playlists Improve Your Wellbeing 📝
Why does that matter? Understanding this will help us regulate our state of minds and emotions. For example, stress and strong emotions can increase beta waves, so to tune it down, we can find sounds or music with low frequency to bring the beta power down. Picking pleasant music to listen to (a subjective experience) can alter waves in different areas of the brain.
Putting specific music up for specific activities changes your environment and signals your brain about what is going to happen. You can train your brain to focus every time you listen to instrumental pieces, or to get up and do some work when you put on your pop music playlist.
Step-by-step Guide to Design Your Wellbeing Playlists 🎶
Now that you understand the benefits and importance of pairing music with your activities, it’s time to #getdowntobusiness !
Here’s a step-by-step guide to design different playlists for everyday use:
1 Set the Intention: How Do You Want to Feel?
Do NOT skip this step. We want to set the foundation right. This step will literally set the tone of your playlists and your routines.
It’s all about goal-setting: pair the activity with the intended emotions in order to achieve outcomes. Here are a few examples:
- Study ← feeling focused
- Workout ← feeling pumped
- (Tedious) housework ← feeling entertained/distracted
- Evening routine ← feeling unwinded
- Sleep ← feeling calm and peaceful
Already got that and want an advanced version? You can regulate your emotions with your playlists.
Pair emotions with emotions:
- Anxious/Stressed/Overwhelmed/Restless ← Calm
- Unmotivated ← Upbeat
- Isolated ← Supportive
Your turn now: when do you want to listen to music? What are the outcomes? How do you want to feel? Write them all down.
2 Find The Music That Makes You Feel Like That
Now that you have your intention set, it’s time to curate your music. You might already have several playlists that you listen to, but now let’s be mindful about that.
As a music therapist, I have a handful of playlists on my Spotify account for both personal and professional purposes. Personally I categorise English songs by year, and all other languages in their own playlists. I always access the playlist of the current year by default – whenever I’m driving, cooking etc. if I don’t feel like listening to podcasts. When I listen back to this playlist in the next few years or when I listen to previous years’ playlists, the songs kind of bring back memories of what I have been doing. Music is really interesting and powerful.
If you don’t already have preferences of what you listen to, give yourself a few weeks to try things out. Here are some useful guidelines:
- Study: music or no music? With lyrics or instrumental? Classical pieces, lofi music or movie themed songs?
- Workout: Rap, heavy metal, rock, or just pop?
- Driving/housework: upbeat or gentle?
- Evening routine/sleep: R&B? Jazz? Meditative music?
Need some inspiration? Sign up for my free playlist recommendations here:
Remember this: there is no rule.
You do you.
What whats for others might not work for you.
Have fun experimenting!
3 Compile in Your Preferred Music Streaming Service and Device
Now that you know how you want to feel and you got the right music for that, it’s time to just compile them in one place for easy access! Pick your favourite music streaming service, create the playlists and put all the corresponding songs in them.
Make sure they are accessible. That would hugely increase your chance of using those lovely playlists!
Pro tip: do you know that you can ask Siri to pull up the playlist for you? Yes, it’s the most ideal to use Apple Music for that, but all you need to do is articulate what you need well (like casting a good spell). Here’s what I do all the time when I’m driving: just say “Hey Siri, play my <playlist name> playlist on Spotify” and you are good to go! Perfect for busy people like you and I. Try it today 😉
4 Test and Tweak
Final stage: experiment with your playlists. Give it a few weeks, observe your behaviours and how you feel.
Do the playlists give you the intended feelings? Do they bring the results that you want? Do they boost your performance and sleep? Is there anything you want to change about the music?
Soooo… isn’t it fun to curate your own playlists to make life more enjoyable? This is one of the things I love about music – it’s so versatile!
Experiment and have fun 🤪
Remember this: anything can be good or bad, depending on how we see and use it. The same goes for music. Here at Strike A Chord Music Therapy, I want to promote the healthy use of music among the younger generation. When I was younger I made the mistake of letting music bring me to a dark place or reminiscing too much. That’s why it is so important to be mindful of what we do!
Final word regarding music:
I would love to know if you curated any playlist for better health! Share your playlist with me via Instagram DM @strikeachordmt 💛
Interested in using music and guided meditation to improve your wellbeing? Check out my handpan meditation soundtracks here. 5 tracks, tailored made for different purposes.
Handpan Guided Meditation🛸
Kučikienė, D., & Praninskienė, R. (2018). The impact of music on the bioelectrical oscillations of the brain. Acta Medica Lituanica, 25(2), 101-106. https://doi.org/10.6001/actamedica.v25i2.3763