The power of music for positive thinking

Last year I was in job that I loved. Unfortunately, working for someone who created an incredibly toxic environment, and who was the cause of a lot of anxiety for me. The kind of anxiety where you get up in the morning and the thought of having to get in the car, drive to work, and deal with that person, left me in a complete breathless and nauseating spin; before I'd even left the house.

 Throughout this time there were a lot of tears. A lot of phone calls / messages to my partner; 'I can't deal with this anymore, I need to resign, etc'. Being of the mentality 'you never throw out your old boots before you've got new ones', I stuck it out. Painfully. I lost my pizzaz at work, and was just generally going through the motions, day to day. I knew that I needed to try and stay strong, stay calm and do all I could to not let this negative energy get the better of me.

I've always had a strong affinity for music. I have playlists for everything – for happy times, sad times, for get-togethers, for concentrating at work; you name it, I have a playlist for it. And this was one of those times that I needed my 'fight songs'. Every morning, afternoon and night. This music helped to motivate me, put a smile on my face and, get that little voice going on the inside. The one that pushes you, and keeps you fighting; regardless of the scenario. The one that says 'I won't let anything beat me'. 

Music boosts brain chemicals. Dopamine is the brain's 'motivation molecule' and a key part of the pleasure-reward system. It is associated with feelings of euphoria, bliss, motivation and concentration. Listening to music increases dopamine and, weirdly, your dopamine levels can increase even further by listening to a playlist that's on shuffle. A small dopamine boost is triggered when one of your favourite songs unexpectedly comes on.

Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body deal with stressful situations. However, when cortisol levels are too high, your mood can be negatively impacted, leading to feelings of stress, then anxiety and depression. In studies conducted, researchers found that patients who listened to music while in a stressful situation (undergoing surgery) had lower levels of cortisol when compared to patients who didn't listen to music during the procedure.

What a combo. Having your 'motivation molecule' enhanced and your stress hormone decreased; it's no wonder that music is commonly being used by professionals as a form of therapy for many mental illnesses. And it's not just the professionals. Anyone can experiment with music and find a rhythm (excuse the pun) that works for them. 

So where do you start with finding music that positively affects your frame of mind? Music streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music have a multitude of playlists. Scrolling through the 'Mood' category on Spotify; Morning Motivation, Unwind and Have a Great Day, to name a few. This is a great place to start and work out what contributes to your feelings of happiness, relaxation and motivation. Use these to start building your own lists; no doubt they will change regularly as you discover more and more what keeps you fighting. 

Music is one of the tools I use to keep myself mentally well. I know which songs make me smile, which make me feel nostalgic and bring back my very best memories, and what playlist to put on if I need to find some motivation. If you're stuck with where to start, I've included my Fight Songs playlist. Full disclosure: it's full of pop music. But no judgement here right? 


Fight Songs Playlist

  1. The Fighter (feat. Ryan Tedder) – Gym Class Heroes

  2. I Believe – Yolanda Adams

  3. This Is Me – Keala Settle

  4. Fight Song – Rachel Platten

  5. The Best – Tina Turner

  6. Search for the Hero – M People

  7. Never Give Up – Sia

  8. The Greatest – Sia

  9. Unstoppable – Sia

  10. Alive – Sia

  11. Roar – Katy Perry

  12. Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Taylor Swift

  13. The Man – Aloe Blacc

  14. Running – David Dallas

  15. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys

  16. Fly – Nicki Minaj & Rihanna

  17. Point of View – DB Boulevard

  18. ME! (feat. Brandon Urie) – Taylor Swift