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Research shows that playing a song you love in a stressful moment can trigger feelings of joy and nostalgia.

By Marina Khidekel, Chief Content Officer at Thrive

April is Stress Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to reflect on the small strategies and Microsteps that help us lower our stress when we feel overwhelmed. One that works for so many is listening to musicResearch shows that playing a song you love in a stressful moment can help you shift gears to a more positive and calm mindset, and even trigger feelings of joy and nostalgia. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the songs they turn to when they feel stressed. Which of these songs will you listen to the next time you need to shift gears?

“Unstoppable” by Sia

“Music can be so powerful. Whenever I feel stressed, under pressure, or tired and low on motivation, I crank up ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia. It never fails to lift me up and set me back on track. I love it!”

—Sharon Kennewell, health and wellness coach, Lincolnshire, UK

“Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin

“A song that helps me to lift up when I feel like I’m a bit lost is ‘Swim’ by Jack’s Mannequin. The lesson is to just keep your head up. We often get so swept away in the current of life’s ‘stuff’ that we forget to focus and swim with purpose toward whatever gives you life.”

—Amy Toncray, engineering recruiting manager, Royal Oak, MI

“Amazing” by One Eskimo

“Wherever I am, or whatever I am doing, as soon as I hear the melodic picking of the guitar and the smooth and sultry song of the horn, I break into a huge smile. It’s impossible not to! I first heard this song when I was attending a one-month retreat at the Oneness Temple in India. It takes me back there, to the processes and practices, to the hours of silent meditation and contemplation, and to all of the healing that I experienced. It opens my heart and mind.”

—Theresa Puskar, trainer and speaker, Chicago, IL

 “The Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys

“The Waterboys have an energetic song called ‘The Whole of the Moon.’ The lyrics are, ‘I saw the crescent. You saw the whole of the moon.’ It is impossible for me to play this song without feeling a release and dancing around. It’s my go-to for stress breaks when I’m having self-limiting thoughts.”

—Donna Peters, MBA faculty and career coach, Atlanta, GA

“Firework” by Katy Perry

“I love the song ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry. When things get tough, it’s a great reminder that you can do it if you tap into your heart and just keep going.”

—Bianca Riemer, leadership coach, London, UK

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince

“I turn to House Music when I’m stressed. It is the beat and energy that immediately helps me dive into projects that require my concentrated effort. The upbeat go-to song that makes me feel happy no matter what is ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ by Prince! It is something about the rhythm and energy of that song that makes me smile under any circumstance.”

—Kelly Brittain, senior program officer, Detroit, MI

“Let It Be” by the Beatles

“I used to be a songwriter in Nashville, so the way the song came about is more amazing than the song itself. Paul McCartney lost his mother at a very early age and her name was Mary and she came to him in a dream and told him not to worry and to let it be. Speaking words of wisdom let it be! It always helps me de-stress.”

—MJ, licensed mental health counselor, Florida

“Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel

“The one go-to song that uplifts me every time I’m stressed out is ‘Solsbury Hill’ by Peter Gabriel. When I listen to this song, I always want to move my body in freedom of expression.  It is said that this song might also be about a spiritual experience that Gabriel had at this place. Perhaps this is why I relate to it, as I sense a deeper meaning in the words and the music. Whatever the original intention, for me it helps me to let go of anything that is weighing me down and releases energy from my body. It’s a powerful call to action, which for me contains magic.”

—Louise Hallam, consultant, Nottingham, UK

“Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor

“I am a person with high anxiety and I recently read that singing can quickly change your stress levels or alter your negative ‘down the rabbit hole’ thinking. I walk or bike daily to help me relax and breathe and one afternoon out of the blue  I started to sing James Taylor’s ‘Carolina In My Mind’ while I’m doing it. Although I don’t know all the words, I just carry on regardless with the verses I do know.  It has been transformative in changing my feelings, and my spirits lift immediately. The minute I hit the sidewalk I start singing  and surprise myself by how automatically the lyrics have become a mantra.”

—Gail Forrest, humor writer and stand up comic,  Evanston, IL

Greatest hits by John Williams 

“John Williams is my absolute favorite film composer! Whenever I am stuck in traffic, feeling overwhelmed at work, or need a burst of motivation, I put on his Greatest Hits album. The beauty and energy of his music is transcendent. The next thing I know I feel like I’m soaring through the sky with ET, or igniting my inner magic with Harry Potter, or harnessing the Force with Star Wars, or embodying my sense of adventure with Jurassic Park, or getting over my fear with Indiana Jones. At times, I even find myself conducting as I listen or having a full out dance break.”

—Stephanie Simpson, leadership/ executive coach and consultant, New York, NY

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