Negative Thoughts? Change your Playlist

man listening to music

Get rid of negative thoughts, change your playlist

It has was suggested that I do a follow-up on my last blog which discussed playlists in our heads. Here is why:

1. Our thoughts and feelings can be intrusive and not always helpful.

2. As a huge music fan, I often use specific music to counter the negative impact of negative thoughts.

3. Even though many of these songs might not initially seem uplifting, they resonate because we can identify with the story and the storyteller.

Songs of Resilience and Awareness Help Me Get Back on Track and change negative thoughts

earphones and iPhone showing music

For me (and many others, certainly) songs of resilience and awareness help me get back on track. It is like reaching out for a connection with a great friend.

The secret is to try not to impose your playlist on another. Respect other lists because it works for them. For me, I usually like some depth and meaning to my song lyrics. Without trying to sound like a music snob, I have worked hard to cultivate an eclectic taste over my 50+ years of meaningful exposure to the wonderful gift of music. Of course, today’s playlist might not be tomorrow’s. That is the beauty of having so much music available to us these days.

Many years ago, as a new therapist, I would often use music to help build rapport with the teens on my caseload. I would allow them to play me some music they liked as long as they were willing to tell me what was meaningful to them about the music. Like all great art, a seemingly simple lyric can mean a thousand things. At the other end of the spectrum, my teen clients sometimes just liked the noise and the mindlessness it created for them-whatever works. If it helps us get over a breakup, endure depression, calm our anxiety, or put us in a better place, it can be magical!

I have playlists for all sorts of occasions. Sometimes, I just let Shuffle do its magic (is Apple inside my head?). For this particular blog, I created one I might use to help me counter that not always helpful inner critic that’s in my head periodically. I thought perhaps to get you interested in creating your list, I would put myself out there and self disclose the reasons I made a particular song choice.

This is what works for me and there is no wrong way to do this. So without further ado here’s my Resilience playlist:

You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared- Warren Zevon

Enough said with the title of this song from a songwriter who could capture a feeling or emotion. I could have gone with his Worrier King, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead or My Shits Fucked Up, all of which capture those hard to deal with and talk about stressors we’ll all have to deal with at some point.

Why Can’t We Live Together?- Timmy Thomas

This wonderfully simple song recently remade by Jim James for the Limited Series, Big Little Lies came out in 1972 when I was 14. It appeals to my Social Work nature. Generally, my philosophy of life is to figure out how to help myself and others. The goal is to try to learn how to live together.

Mystic Man- Peter Tosh

Since personally discovering reggae in the early ’80s, I have always come back to it for spiritual as well as joyful sustenance. This particular song is how I like to see myself or at least remind myself how I aspire to think and be.

Still a Freak- The Waterboys

My mostly Celtic heritage calls me to this wonderful band that mixes the traditional with the modern. I love words. This band uses words well. Trying to maintain my inner freak is important to me. This song is one of my pep songs when I need a reminder.

Side with the Seeds- Wilco

Another great band I came to late, this particular offering reminds me of a couples therapy session, using the seeds and the leaves as metaphors for what it takes to be in a healthy relationship. The musicianship just adds to the story as it builds to a stunning climax.

Thank You(Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin))- Sly and the Family Stone

An oldie but a goodie from middle school, this song took on new meaning for me in my current relationship. I am grateful to my wonderful partner of 18+ years who lets me be myself.

Wake up Time- Tom Petty

An integral part of my mid-life crisis years, this song was a call me out song to be sure you practice what you preach. I need regular reminders some 20 years later.

Nights – Frank Ocean

One of my favorite newer artists, this song was part of the soundtrack of resilience I have needed the past few years. The song is all over the place and uses a voice that survived Katrina. Can’t wait until his rumored new music comes out- an artist for our times.

This Mess We’re In – PJ Harvey

A duet with another favorite Thom Yorke, this song has deep meaning for my partner and me and reminds me to pay attention to what I have. She is one of my favorite artists who has always done her own thing.

No One’s Easy to Love – Sharon Van Etten

Another favorite newer artist and fellow therapist, this song title says it all. Despite all that can go wrong in a relationship, we still keep trying to have them. Acceptance of the title is the key to making relationships work.

Reckoner – Radiohead

Thought I’d end on a spiritual note. Regardless of your beliefs, having some measure of spirituality seems paramount. This song is on my Wake list because, along with a handful of others, it takes me to that place. The metaphors for how separate we all are hits home hard, yet assures as well.

Now you can put together your playlist to ban negative thoughts

So there you have it. I hope this inspires you to create and be healed by your revolving lists. We would love to see your list! Please post it in the comments below.

At Resilience Tree, we offer classes and other valuable self-care strategies and information from licensed therapists. If you want a deeper dive into resilience and mental health skill-building, check out the site.

All the best and resiliently yours,
Jim.