Feel Different Now: Creating a happy playlist

How can you start feeling different right now?

To address a mental health issue, you need to come at it from a lot of different directions. Some of that’s the deep stuff—working with a therapist to recognize and improve things like thought patterns and how you approach problems, for example. This stuff is incredibly important for getting to the root of a mental health challenge, and, in the long-term, really can help you feel different.

It’s not all slow or complex stuff that helps, though. When I talk about approaching a mental wellness from different directions, that includes having in-the-moment strategies ready. It can be so helpful to have some tools in your pocket to help you feel different just for the moment. Right now. Whenever you need. Things that you can add to a toolkit that you can always keep on hand.

I’ve found keeping a pick-me-up playlist to be one of those things that can help improve my mood when things aren’t going well. A couple of years ago, I was finishing up my master’s degree. Part of earning the degree was presenting research I had done to a group of professors—my thesis defense. I had worked really hard on the thesis project, and really hard on the degree. I presented my work to them…and I didn’t pass the defense. I failed it. They told me what I had done wasn’t good enough, and that I’d need to keep working on it, then present it again. It was the worst possible outcome, and I was devastated. That day, walking across campus after the defense and trynig not to cry, I started playing Macklemore’s “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” on repeat. And that’s when I started feeling like things would be okay.

That same Macklemore song is on the Spotify playlist that I’ve named simply “Pick Me Up.” I have a few guidelines for myself for the songs I add to it:

  1. The songs I include should be upbeat

  2. I need to skip over anything dark—no feel-sorry-for-yourself or wallowing songs, and nothing with any lyrics that could be triggering at all

  3. It’s a work in progress, and I’m always on the lookout for what else I can add

  4. Most importantly, each item needs to spark a little happiness

That music can bring joy to people is nothing new. What might be different about my suggestion, though, is the idea of intentionally putting together a group of songs tailored for a better mood, and it’s doing it with the knowledge that things won’t always go perfectly for you, but you can take steps and do something about it. It’s about building a toolkit of things you can use to improve your mood—and then using those tools.

Here are some suggestions for things to include in a pick-me-up playlist (along with the titles of some of the songs on mine):

  1. Anthems (“I Will Survive” covered by Cake)

  2. Songs you love singing along to (“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, “Libérée, Délivrée” by Anais Delva)

  3. Songs with lyrics you find inspirational, motivating, or empowering (“Pa’lante” by Hurray For The Riff Raff, “Alexander Hamilton” by Leslie Odom Jr.)

  4. Energizing songs (“Elastic” by Joey Purp, “My Only Offer” by Mates of State)

  5. Songs that remind you of a happy memory (“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies)

  6. Songs that make you laugh (“Thrift Shop” by Macklemore)

Go try it out. See what you come up with. And don’t forget to actually play your list when you’re feeling down.

And here’s to the little things, and to taking steps to build a little more joy in life.

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