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Why Your Playlist Could be Good (or Bad) for Your Health

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

We all know that music can affect our mood. But can your playlist have a positive or negative affect on your health and wellbeing?

Today, creating a playlist couldn’t be easier. You can put together playlists of your favorite artist or genre, share them or keep them to yourself. And if you’re not feeling inspired, streaming services such as Spotify have created playlists for you. While lists such as the Top 50 are to be expected, I must confess to having been baffled by RapCaviar (hip hop) and Beast Mode (also hip hop). Songs to Sing in the Car or Songs to Sing the Shower didn’t send me scuttling to Google for clarification. As for Songs from the Toilet Bowl, I’ll let you decide.

Without really thinking about it too much, we all know that music can affect our mood. There are songs that get our feet tapping and songs that make us want to cry our eyes out. Songs that remind us of a time of our lives, or someone we care about.

What’s interesting is that the music we choose to play may be having a far deeper effect than we’re consciously aware of. In her book on Toning, Laurel Keyes refers to a study carried out on plant life by Dorothy Retallack. In the study, the plants were subjected to two different radio stations, one which broadcast rock and another which broadcast classical and religious music. Take a guess which station the plants had a positive reaction to. Hint: It wasn’t the rock station. In fact, the plants leaned away from the rock music and failed to thrive, while the plants responded to the harmonious music with luxuriant growth.

If you’re reacting like I reacted, you’re probably saying, “I’m not giving up rock!” I love belting out “I can’t get no satisfaction” at the top of my lungs and singing a mangled version of Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll get all the words right one day…

So no, I’m not giving up rock. But I do know that if I match my music choices to what I need in the moment (relaxation vs. energizing), I will usually feel the desired effect.

If you’re aware you’re feeling down and low in energy (and you don’t want to stay that way,) playing a song of heartbreak and despair isn’t going to lift you out of the doldrums. On the other hand, if the tears are stuck in your throat and you need some relief, choosing a weepy song may the trigger you need to let those healing drops fall.

Conversely, putting on your favorite dance song and shaking your hips and booty can make you feel energized and put a smile on your face. It’s amazing what a few minutes of bopping around to your favorite beat can do for your mood.

It’s really about conscious listening. Paying attention to how you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically, and choosing the music that will support what you need in that moment.

But how do you know what you need? After all, many like junk food but satisfying a craving isn’t necessarily good for our health and wellbeing. A simple test is to check in with yourself before you listen to a piece of music and how you feel thereafter. Faster music may help you feel more alert and concentrate better, while slower music may help you release the stress of the day. Music can be very effective for relaxation and stress management.

You may have a go-to playlist tailored to various moods, mindsets, and needs, but if you don’t, you may want to create some.

It’s not only plants that respond well to classical music, it’s been found to boost your mood in times of worry, according to a recent study. There’s a wide variety of music out there, some of it specifically created for its healing benefits. Some believe in chanting mantras (artists such as Deva Pramal have been at the forefront of introducing Sanskrit mantras to the mainstream), while others find binaural beats beneficial. As an added bonus, music may also help keep your brain young.

Beyond personal taste and experience, as we’ve seen, some music types have a more powerful effect in shifting your mood or helping you relax than others. So, the next time you’re feeling a little “meh” or a little tired, or maybe even stressed, consider using your playlist to lift you up or calm you down. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results!

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