A good playlist can help fight off the January lockdown blues

Music has been a feature of every society, past and present – but can it be used for more than just entertainment? Tiernan Phipps explores the potential and proven health benefits of this universal language.

Even as I am writing this article, I have the Kooks from 2006 blaring out through my airpods, helping to release those creative juices.

I have a playlist for just about every mood: happy, sad, lonely, to inspire productivity. But, tuning in, a thought struck me: can I have a playlist which improves my mental health?

Music therapist Grace Meadows, of Music for Dementia thinks so. She says: “As communicative beings, we process music on a physiological, emotional and cognitively social level: the key concept at play is that music is focussed across the whole brain, and not just one area.”

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken it’s toll on our mental health – a recent article by the Health Foundation suggested that it has worsened substantially, by 8.1% on average as a result of the pandemic.

People are feeling worried, stressed and anxious, and being locked away at home is not helping. Is it time we looked at the mercurial power of music to address some of these problems?

Ms Meadows suggests that a ‘playlist for life’ could help when you’re feeling blue this lockdown, and also has the potential to tackle the rising prevalence of diminished mental health amid the backdrop of the doom and gloom of lockdown number three.

“Because we’ve seen how much people have turned to music during Covid, this gives us a stronger argument that music is there to support everyone, be it a person living with dementia, a mental illness or just people in general – music is there to support health and wellbeing as well as quality of life.”


Ms Meadows’s passion for the therapeutic qualities is clear to see when she speaks about her journey from bassoonist to therapist: “I started to look more into music therapy when I finished music college, and I thought: this speaks to me on a really fundamental level, it’s about music and helping people.

“Music is a necessity, not a nicety.”

There is no doubt that music reaches the brain in a way in which nothing else really can. If you find yourself feeling the full brunt of the lockdown blues, one idea is to create a playlist of your favourite, meaningful songs. You never know, it just might help keep the blues at bay.

With live music far from feasible during lockdown, the magic of gigs is a long way off from being reality. So, this is the best we have. Let’s work with it and allow music to brighten our lives.