‘When the world falls apart some things stay in place’

The lyric from the Billy Bragg song, ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ could easily be a summary of how the world feels right now. For me, one of the things that stays in place is the value of music. The connection can be more than its brain altering powers. I was playing ‘God Only Know by the Beach Boys last week in our family room – I was delighted to discover my son’s shared his love for one of my favorite songs. 

Music and Meditation are both sources of wellbeing in times of stress

It’s been eight weeks since we’ve been cocooned at home, and music has played a part in our house in keeping us calm, uplifting us and making us feel connected to something bigger. 

There’s great research on how music (just like meditation) can support our wellbeing – here are some insights that I’ve pulled together from that research: 

  • One goal of music is to create a powerful and positive shift in our mental state. 
  • Music is a reliable source of transformational experience for some of us – we are attracted to music for the same reasons that meditators meditate. 
  • Music (and meditation) allow a fuller and richer experience of our emotions: 
    • It stops our incessant and often negative mental chatter and potentially lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and helps us sleep better.
    • Offers us an opportunity to inhabit the present moment more fully and meaningfully. 
    • And rewires the brain with a host of positive emotional qualities. 

These are all important for good health and happiness in human beings.

  • One reason we love music so much is it allows us to forget our troubles and just be. Immersed in sound and devoid of the usual angst of life, we can perceive our world from a hyper-present flow state.
    • Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” Our sense of self temporarily deactivates and the parts of the brain that generate feelings like anxiety and self-doubt are subdued. In this state, the activity becomes entirely rewarding in and of itself without regard for outcome. 

Practical help

So, if you need music to help right now, you can find many playlists out there – just google quarantine playlists to find one that suits you. One of my favorites is the Billy Bragg list that I’ve reprinted below as it contains a lot that’s uplifting. And if you’d like to hear the ones I’ve created, please visit my YouTube channel.  

You don't always need a playlist
You don’t always need a playlist
  • Billy Bragg is an English folk singer whose career has spanned over 30 years.  
  • Levi Stubbs was the lead singer of the Motown group, the Four Tops. 

Sources for this summary

Billy Bragg’s lockdown playlist

  1. John Lennon • Walls And Bridges – Whatever Gets You Through the Night
  2. The Supremes • Right On – Up the Ladder to the Roof
  3. Dusty Springfield • Dusty In Memphis [Deluxe Edition] – Breakfast in Bed
  4. Bob Dylan • Side Tracks – Watching the River Flow
  5. Patsy Cline • Patsy Cline – Walking After Midnight
  6. Osibisa • The Very Best Of – Woyaya
  7. The Temptations • Puzzle People – Can’t get next to You
  8. ABBA • Abba – SOS
  9. Little Feat • The Last Record Album – Long Distance Love
  10. Willie Nelson • The Early Years – Hello Walls
  11. Phoebe Snow • The Very Best Of Phoebe Snow – Every Night
  12. The Marvelettes • Please Mr. Postman
  13. Percy Sledge • The Percy Sledge Way – Dark End of the Street
  14. Audrey Hepburn • Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) [Remastered]
  15. Fats Waller • If You Got To Ask, You Ain’t Got It! – Sit right down and write myself a letter
  16. Blaze Foley • Duct Tape Messiah – If I could only fly
  17. Billy Bragg • Talking with the Taxman About Poetry – Levi Stubbs Tears
  18. Four Tops • Reach Out – Reach out and I’ll be there
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