You know that part in every coming-of-age film when the troubled teenager storms to their bedroom, slams the door behind them and blasts their music to drown out their nagging parents? Or those music videos that display groups of people all coming together to dance jubilantly in the sun? Or perhaps the emotional melodies overlaying the John Lewis Christmas advert every year? These all refer to the ways in which music can have a profound impact on our mood and are indicative of the effects listening can have on our wellbeing.
Numerous studies, such as that conducted in 2011, have proved that at moments of peak musical enjoyment we release dopamine, a chemical also responsible for the response to food, money and feelings of love. The mental health charity, Mind, also found that playing music in the workplace greatly relaxed workers and a 2009 meta-analysis by Harvard University, discovered that music-assisted relaxation helped better the quality of sleep in patients with sleep disorders. We cannot, therefore, refute the scientific evidence that music is good for our mental health and wellbeing. And with lockdown 2.0 soon to be drawing to a close, I wanted to share some of the different musical moods that I regularly dip into to maintain my wellbeing.
I know I’m not the only one who has numerous niche Spotify playlists, each tailored for a specific mood, and there’s really nothing better than being able to dive into a selection of songs that will cater exactly to what you are currently feeling. Whether I feel like having a cry, reminiscing on old times, lying in the sun or having my own personal dance party, I’m never without the perfect playlist for my current mood.
After a hard day of reading in the library or days without any me-time, there’s nothing quite like winding down to some slower-paced tunes. Including Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Always a Woman’, ‘Menswear’ by The 1975, and ‘Circle the Drain’ by Soccer Mommy, my chill playlist is something to look forward to after the stresses of an Oxford day.
For those days where you feel down and need a cry, it can be cathartic to listen to the voices of your favourite artists expressing similar feelings. The whole Carrie and Lowell album by Sufjan Stevens, ‘6/10’ by Dodie and ‘This Is Me Trying’ by Taylor Swift have been getting me through the lows of Michaelmas term. Although music is no replacement for professional help, it’s okay not to be okay, and sometimes hearing someone else reiterate this through song makes this mood just that little bit easier to deal with.
On a lighter note, nothing quite compares to the act of putting on your favourite upbeat tunes when you’re in a really good mood and it can have amazing benefits for your wellbeing. ‘Love Plus One’ by Haircut 100, ‘Green Light’ by Lorde, and ‘Listerine’ by Dayglow, get me strutting through Oxford like I’m the main character, and finding those songs that have you grinning when you’re in a good mood is the best feeling in the world.
Whether alone or with friends (Corona permitting of course!), plenty of studies have shown that dancing and moving to music has huge mental health benefits. As my poor friends now know, I have a slight obsession with ‘Jai Ho!’ by the Pussycat Dolls but also anything Charli xcx has me up on my feet and grooving when I’m in the dancing mood. Not only is it good exercise but such a good way to de-stress after an hour or so sat in a class or tutorial.
I could go on, but you can find the rest of my niche playlists for every mood and occasion on my Spotify (not a plug I promise!). With the release of several lockdown albums, notably from the likes of Taylor Swift, Charli XCX and more, it has never been more apparent how healthy music can be as a way for musicians and listeners alike to unwind and self-express. True, music is not an alternative to mental health guidance, but its ability to provide an escapism from the stresses of everyday life or to facilitate our different moods ranging from melancholy to elation means it has a vital impact on our day to day wellbeing.
So this is my call to you, if you haven’t already, to find those go-to tunes for different moods because you never quite know when you’ll next need to whip out a boogie playlist.