music listening anxiety


Full-time working mom gets home from work. While making supper she starts to get this heart-pounding-thoughts-racing feeling. Her husband walks in, with the kids and asks her "What's wrong?". She can't identify anything specific. "I'm ok" she says. While cutting up the potatoes her thoughts keep jumping... the work-day, the over due project, the new trainee, the groceries, the kids swimming lessons, the house, the in-laws, the summer holidays, the budget, the, the, the.... She knows enough in this moment to take a "time-out", she sits on the couch. Scrolls through social media, the feeling won't subside. "This isn't working" she says to herself. Puts her phone down. Walks over to the stereo and puts on one of her favourite songs.

She closes her eyes. She lets the energy of the song take over. She can feel it all over her body, she starts to sway back at forth. She feels this wave-like sensation. She keeps swaying back and forth, quietly mouthing the words, losing herself in the song. She tears up. She stays in this moment. Nothing matters but the song. The song ends. She opens her eyes and feeling refreshed, she is able to finish supper prep and is now able to be present with her family.

It only takes twenty minutes of intentional music listening a day to decrease your stress, boost your mood and increase your happiness. 

Intentional music is listening to music with the intention of feeling better, increasing happiness and/or decreasing depression & anxiety. Intention plays a huge role in the success of this coping mechanism. The listener has to set the intention and embody that intention while listening to the music/playlist.  

Playlists are like the 21st century version of a mixed tape. Remember, mixed tapes? You had a mixed tape for everything. You made them for friends, you had one of love songs, you had one for driving and so on. Why not create playlists with the same intentions?

Here are some suggestions for a 21st century mixed tape:

  1. Create a playlist that causes you to feel happy.

  2. Create a playlist that causes you to feel grounded.

  3. Create a playlist that causes you to feel like dancing.

  4. Create a playlist that causes you to feel like nostalgic (in a good way).

  5. Create a playlist that causes you to think of your partner (in a good way).

  6. Create a playlist that causes you to think of your kids (in a good way).

Here's how to use intentional playlists:

  1. Create the playlist(s)

  2. Set your intentions - in the moments right before listening
    "I am feeling anxious and I want to feel grounded"
    "I am about to loose my sh*t and I want to calm down"
    "I am feeling crippled by anxiety and I want to get out of my head"

  3. Put the headphones in and turn it up!
    Improving your mood and inviting more happiness into your life with music can be done in almost any situation. You can simply sit and listen, you can intentionally listen while driving or working out. Chose the playlist that will create your desired effect and play it till you get a semblance of that feeling. Anywhere where you can access music, that is the place where you can find a little gem of happiness.

  4. Feel the beat with your body
    It's no secret that our minds & bodies are interconnected. More often than not, music makes us want to move. These body movements release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, so we feel better and organically develop a more positive outlook. Combining music with movement is an effective way to improve your mood.

  5. Interrupt your negative self-talk with music
    Listening to your favourite song or playlist can interrupt the natural thought patterns of regret, worry and/or fear. Music helps us to focus our attention on the sound and rhythm, even if just for a short while.

There are a variety of ways you can use this practice to meet your needs, for example, it could be used while in the heat of an anxious moment or it can turn into a daily practice, where you listen every morning/night for 20 mins. I encourage you to explore your music tastes and start using music intentionally in your life TODAY.

PS> Jennifer Buchanan (music therapist in Calgary, AB) has some great resources aimed at using music in your life with purpose and intention.

Until next time,


However, helpful these tactics are, people struggling with depression or anxiety are encouraged to seek out the help of a professional mental health support person. I offer a variety of services for people in and around Regina, SK. I offer complimentary 30 minute in-person meetings, to see if Iā€™m the right therapist for you!