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Depression and other mood disorders play right into the hands of addiction, and learning to regulate your own mood is a vital part of recovery.
Music Is a Powerful Tool
This is where incorporating music into your treatment as a complementary practice can boost your chances of staying committed to the steps.
Research shows that listening to music is a good strategy for regulating mood and promoting self-awareness and social relatedness, all of which have substantial benefits for addiction recovery. Music can help you explore emotions surrounding recovery or to generate positive emotions without reliance on drugs or alcohol.
The music you choose to complement your recovery is, therefore, a highly personal decision. You know what music speaks to you, what music makes you feel good.
To get you started with your own recovery playlist, here is a sampling of mood-boosting, inspirational music across genres to give you that extra push you’re looking for today (And here’s the link to this playlist on youtube).
Listening Tip: If you find a song that works for you, create a channel on Pandora or Spotify to discover similar music you can use to build your recovery playlist!
1. “It’s Time” (Imagine Dragons) – About making major life changes without losing oneself, Imagine Dragons’s “It’s Time” is a great fit for a playlist about addiction recovery. Plus, the catchy beat is sure to motivate you and keep you going.
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit / Right to the top.
2. “Step Out into the Light” (Matisyahu) – The artist Matisyahu has been in recovery himself, and this shows in “Step Out into the Light.” He sings about the kind of introspection and faith necessary to confront personal demons.
My demons waitin’ on every corner just to pull me down / They follow me around
3. “Walk” (Foo Fighters) – With themes like fear, sacrifice, and starting over again, “Walk” by Foo Fighters has a lot to say to the experience of addiction recovery.
Learning to walk again / I believe I’ve waited long enough / Where do I begin?
4. “Better Than I Used to Be” (Tim McGraw) – Just because you’re in recovery doesn’t mean you’re perfect. But just because you aren’t perfect doesn’t mean you’re not doing better than you were. In “Better Than I Used to Be,” Tim McGraw captures recovery as a process not an end.
I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get / But I’m better than I used to be
5. “Choices” (George Jones) – Touching on the temptations of alcohol dependency, George Jones reflects on his choices. Not the most uplifting song on the list, but Jones is a good listen when you need a reminder that you’re not alone in your experience and that you also have choices moving forward.
I’ve had choices / Since the day that I was born / There were voices / That told me right from wrong / If I had listened / No I wouldn’t be here today
6. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” (Travis Tritt) – About the simple pleasures in life, Travis Tritt’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” can help when refocusing on the simpler pleasures in life that have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol.
I’m feeling pretty good and that’s the truth / It’s neither drink nor drug induced, no, / I’m just doing alright
7. “Bridge over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel) – Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” serves as a good (and soothing) reminder that there are those people in life that are around to comfort and support even in the most difficult of times.
I will comfort you / I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
8. “From a Distance” (Bette Midler) – Sometimes you just need to remember to step back and take stock of your life “from a distance.” In those times, it’s good to have Bette Midler’s inspiring song to remind you.
From a distance there is harmony / And it echoes through the land
9. “You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban) – When you feel that you can’t stand on your own, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” speaks to the experience in recovery of trusting in something higher than yourself to keep you on the path of recovery. It’s a perfect song for a recovery playlist.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains / You raise me up to walk on stormy seas / I am strong when I am on your shoulders / You raise me up to more than I can be
10. “Hold Your Head Up” (Macklemore) – The ultimate song to help you keep on going, Macklemore’s “Hold Your Head Up” just understands the experience of addiction recovery with all of its struggles, difficulties, and (yes) freedoms.
Freedom is accepting every step of the path
11. “Stronger” (Kanye) – Not about recovery by a long stretch, but listening to the chorus of Kanye’s “Stronger” you can’t help but feel fortified in the face of life’s difficulties.
N-now th-that that don’t kill me / Can only make me stronger
12. “Lose Yourself” (Eminem) – Seizing the moment and letting go of your ego is at the heart of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and exactly what can be gained through recovery.
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow / This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
Musical Show Tunes
13. “My Shot” (Hamilton, The Roots ft. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz & Nate Ruess [The Hamilton Mixtape]) – Whether you’re listening to the original musical soundtrack or The Roots on the Hamilton Mixtape, “My Shot” is a great reminder that you only get one shot at life, and that shot shouldn’t be wasted.
I said I’m not throwin’ away my shot
14. “No Day but Today” (Rent, Idina Menzel Acoustic) – Idina Menzel’s acoustic performance of “No Day but Today” is a powerfully emotional reminder that there’s no time like the present to turn your life around.
There’s only us, there’s only this / Forget regret, or life is yours to miss / No other path, no other way / No day but today
15. “She Used to Be Mine” (Waitress) – Although past versions of ourselves may be lost, Waitress’s “She Used to Be Mine” shows that aspects of that self can still be recovered through life’s hardships.
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes / That’s been gone, but used to be mine
16. “Beautiful Day” (U2) – Looking at the world with new eyes, U2’s “Beautiful Day” focuses on the hope that comes with seeing the world from a different perspective.
It’s a beautiful day / Don’t let it get away
17. “Be OK” (Ingrid Michaelson) – Sometimes you’re just looking for baseline okay, and Ingrid Michaelson’s upbeat “Be OK” gets the feeling. Not every day is perfect, but you can find the beauty and hope in just okay.
I just want to be okay, be okay, be okay / I just want to be okay today
18. “Counting Stars” (One Republic) – There are a lot of contradictions in recovery, but One Republic’s “Counting Stars” makes those contradictions sound a lot more fun than they feel. Good for when you just need something to get you going.
Everything that kills me, makes feel alive
19. “Lean on Me” (Bill Withers) – Recovery depends on learning to depend on other people in healthy ways. This upbeat oldie by Bill Withers makes leaning on other people feel like something natural and selfless.
Lean on me, when you’re not strong / And I’ll be your friend / I’ll help you carry on
20. “Let It Be” (The Beatles) – Some things about recovery you just cannot force. Let The Beatles’s “Let It Be” wash over you, and feel like you’re on solid ground come what may.
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be / Yeah, there will be an answer / Let it be
21. “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash) – There are times when recovery can be a more optimistic and positive process. Turn to Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” to keep you focused on the positives.
I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
22. “Three Little Birds” (Bob Marley) – A cheery, optimistic song, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” could help you see the sunny side of life even on the hardest of days.
Don’t worry about a thing / ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
There are many other playlists out there where you can find further suggestions. I recommend the mood-based playlists on Psychology Today, including playlists for self-compassion, self-esteem, mental health resilience, and mood improvement. There are also other psychology-based tips for creating your own feel-good playlist. Ultimately, whatever music you turn to in your recovery, just make sure it’s enjoyable and feels true to you!
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