COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured Mental health Wellness

Music for self care: Listening to music with intention

Listening to music through headphones.
Written by Jill Hedican

Do you recall a time when music lifted your mood, energized you, or transported you to another time or place? Consider using music in an intentional way to help you cope during a challenging time. One way to do this is to create playlists with a specific intention tailored just for you.

Getting started

What is your preferred way to listen to music?  This is a good time to consider an app or service that makes it easy for you to create and organize playlists. Take some time to figure out your best option for sound quality, such as headphones or a Bluetooth speaker rather than the speaker on your phone or laptop.


What do you need right now? Create playlist headings with these needs in mind, for example: Calm, Comfort, Connections or Hope.

Music selection

Listen to one song or piece of music at a time and really consider how you feel as you listen. Does the music fit with one of your playlists? Does it bring a feeling of calm or hope for example, or is it best left out of the mix right now?


Once you have your personalized playlists, think of times you might like to use them such as part of your morning routine, or as a way to take a break during a time of stress. Consider which playlist is right for you in that moment, and take note of how you feel as you listen.


Continue to refine and update your playlists. As you listen, remove songs that don’t quite fit or elicit the feeling you are after. Feel free to add new music along the way, and consider exploring new music that you haven’t listened to before as you continue to build your playlists.

Self care

As you begin to listen to music with intention, be mindful of how the music is impacting you emotionally. Music, even favourite music, can elicit negative as well as positive emotions and sometimes it may be better to stop the music or try something different. It may take some time to find the right music to meet your current needs, especially during a time of high stress. Don’t worry if it doesn’t click right away. Consider starting with music that fits your current mood, even a low mood, before shifting to music with the intent of lifting your mood. Take your time, and be open to the possibility that music might not be what you need right now.

If you are interested in learning more about how a music therapist can support your mental health you can reach out to the Canadian Association of Music Therapists or the Music Therapy Association of Ontario.

* Content in this post was informed by the research of Caryl Ann Browning, BA, MTA Music Therapy in Childbirth, and JB Music Therapy, Purposeful Playlists for Life.

Coping during COVID-19: mental health resources from Sunnybrook's Department of Psychiatry »

About the author

Jill Hedican

Jill Hedican, RP, MTA, is a Certified Music Therapist & Registered Psychotherapist.