Playlists: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I have come to find that everyone has a “sad” playlist.  Now, I realize that statement is an overgeneralization…perhaps what I should say is: As a therapist, I have encountered that most of my clients who struggle with depression, also have a “sad” playlist.

Let me give you a visualization: dirty bath water.

Listening to a playlist full of depressing music when you are depressed, is the mental equivalent of sitting in someone else’s dirty bathwater and expecting to feel clean.  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!  In general, I do assume that most of us would seek a clean water source to bathe in, if the goal is to feel refreshed.  Why on earth do we reach for the sad songs in an effort to feel better? Has it ever worked? After listening to an hour of melancholy music have you every decided to get up and go for a hike? Or get dressed up to go out with some friends? Doubtful!  I would venture to guess that you transitioned from sad playlist to sad movie, to ice cream, to staying up too late and then going to bed.  So why do we do it?

Answer: Validation.  It seems that the primary function of the sad songs is to let you know that you aren’t alone.  Hearing lyrics that speak to the emotional pain that you are experiencing can be joining and comforting during a time when you are most likely feeling lonely and isolated.

Ok, so here’s the thing: take a shower, not a bath!  I hear you and I appreciate the desire to feel connected to someone/something. You are right that songs can serve this purpose, but too much of anything can be a problem. I propose you shower.  Listen to ONE, maybe two sad songs…then get out and towel dry.  With or without music, sitting in dirty bathwater until it turns cold is a terrible idea! Why would you think that is going to make you feel better?! You need movement…stay standing…try a shower:

  • Step One: listen to your ONE or two sad songs while standing upright, maybe taking a walk around your neighborhood?
  • Step Two: Transition to a playlist that brings on a different emotion (calming, happy, pumped up, sexy)
  • Step Three: Go on about your day.


  • Step One: Make a UPLIFTING playlist
  • Step Two: Listen to UPLIFTING playlist!
  • Step Three: Go on about your day.


Some of my favorite uplifting songs for my own uplifting playlist:

  1. Roar by Katy Perry
  2. Tongue Tied by Group Love
  3. Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys
  4. Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations
  5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
  6. Living on a Prayer by Jon Bon Jovi
  7. Uptown Girl by Billie Joel
  8. Dancing Queen by Abba
  9. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson
  10. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
  11. Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
  12. Wannabe by Spice Girls
  13. London Bridge by Fergie
  14. Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
  15. Happy by Pharell
  16. The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars
  17. Block after Block by Matt & Kim
  18. Mountain Sound by Of Monsters and Men
  19. Love Love Love by Avalanche City
  20. What A Feeling by Irene Cara
  21. Time of My Life “ Dirty Dancing”
  22. Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel
  23. I’m a Believer by Smashmouth
  24. The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson
  25. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift

(For the record: looking up these songs took a ton of time…because I had to re-listen to them…and re-dance to them…and re-smile! I may or may not have had to check a few concert tour schedules too…but either way, my mood is GREAT right now 😃)


Feel free to check out my “feel good” playlist on YouTube, or make your own!

Comment your favorite feel good songs!

4 thoughts on “Playlists: the good, the bad, and the ugly”

  1. Shut Up and Dance- Walk the Moon
    Come Sail Away- Styx
    Some Nights- fun.
    We’re Not Gonna Take It- Twisted Sister
    Sweet Child ‘o Mine- Guns ‘n Roses

  2. “Honey I’m Good”

    A bunch of these are already on my playlist – Some others I’m gonna have to look up because I’m not familiar with them – So I am grateful to have some new ideas to add 🙂

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