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Music is one of the best motivational tools you can use to stay focused on recovery.

Songs for a Recovery PlaylistMusic & The Brain

When you listen to a song, the brain arranges a sequence of notes and other sounds into a cohesive whole. This structure taps into the body’s nervous system. Once this structure is complete, it activates the cerebellum, a part of the brain responsible for movement; and the limbic system, which is linked to emotion. This is why music has such a powerful impact on how we feel; whether we dance or go for a run; why we get goosebumps or cry when we hear a song.

Research into music cognition and therapy also indicates two primary reasons people listen to music:

  • It’s a valued companion.
  • It provides a comfortable level of activation and a positive mood.

In treatment and early recovery, you’ve dedicated considerable effort to adjust brain chemistry artificially altered by drugs or alcohol. This is why addiction is considered a brain disease: it persistently changes the function and structure of your mind. Music stimulates all areas of the brain, including those that may not be accessed with other healing methods. It enhances brain function and optimizes its potential in cognitive understanding, motor skills, and speech/language centers.

Creating a playlist of songs that provide you with support, inspiration, motivation, and reinforcement of purpose puts you back in control of how you’ll progress in your wellness journey.

Support Your Sobriety with Music

Music is an incredibly personal choice, and there are thousands of options. Here are just a few popular song choices.

“Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw

This hit single is a recognition of beautiful humanity and what gets us through it.

I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

“Not Afraid” – Eminem

This song is from his first album after completing initial treatment. He later relapsed, but found his way back to sobriety again.

Yeah, it’s been a ride,
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one
Now some of you might still be in that place
If you’re trying to get out, just follow me
I’m not afraid to take a stand,
Everybody come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin’ you know you’re not alone
Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

A disco classic, it may talk about a breakup but its continual refrain imprints a strong message.

I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive, hey hey

“Glory” – Common and John Legend

A gospel anthem from the “Selma” movie soundtrack, this song reminds us to believe in a higher purpose.

The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful
We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through
Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany
Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
Welcome to the story we call victory
The comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory

“It’s My Life” – Bon Jovi

This arena-rock powerhouse is perfect for those moments when you need to tell off the world.

Tomorrow’s getting harder, make no mistake
Luck ain’t enough, you’ve got to make your own breaks
It’s my life, and it’s now or never,
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, I did it my way
I just want to live while I’m alive
It’s my life

“Let It Be” – The Beatles

A timeless comfort of acceptance and peace written by legend Paul McCartney, this song is a must-have addition to your recovery playlist.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow,
Let it be
There will be an answer,
Let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom,
Let it be

“Sunlight” – MC Yogi

A popular performer in holistic circles, this DJ gets inspiration from the Beastie Boys and meditation.

In your darkest day when you can’t find your way
Looking outside all you find is grey
Confined by the mind trapped inside the cage
A slave to what you crave with no way to escape
Look behind the mind and you will find
The place inside where the sun shines
Feel it
Shine like a star inside your heart
One light shines bright wash away the dark

“Over the Rainbow” – Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole

The soft, lilting voice of this Hawaiian folk singer allows this classic to nurture you like a lullaby.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops,
High above the chimney top,
That’s where you’ll find me,
Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Why oh why can’t I?

You can find other playlist ideas from Psychology Today.

Consider Instrumental Music, Too

Lyrics may provide spoken inspiration, but instrumental and foreign language music taps into even deeper emotions, because the performers are offering sounds of their soul. If you’re not normally a fan of jazz, opera, classical, kirtan chanting, ambient sound, and other genres, listen until something strikes, well, a chord with you.

And for something completely different, try arrangements from the group Marconi Union that specialize in synching brain waves and musical frequencies to enhance the effect of sound on your nervous system. The group created what is considered to be the most relaxing song ever, “Weightless,” which neuroscientists say reduces anxiety by more than 60 percent.

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