I created a playlist for my brain, and it changed my life

I’m a developer. I listen to music every day. I listen to random playlists or recommendations from Spotify.

I’m also a runner, but I do not listen to music while I’m running. It gets repetitive. And I don’t like to fiddle with my phone to find better music while I’m running.

One day I run out of podcasts to listen to whilst I was running. I was already on my way home. It was a long run, about 30k, so I was quite tired and my energy level was pretty low.

I run without anything for a while and then I decided to put some Led Zeppelin on. When the first notes of “Whole Lotta Love” kicked in my energy level picked up. I speeded up and felt pretty good almost immediately. A few songs later I arrived home. I still felt tired, but my mood was better.

That whole episode made me think. Let’s create a playlist for the upcoming ultra (100k). Every time I felt low I would play something from the playlist. Long story short it worked.

Every time I felt the low energy I played a few songs. I still remember my last 1k or so. We were finishing at the race track in Brighton. There was a long stretch of grass track that leads to the finish line. I picked up my phone and find the Maniac song from Flashdance, don’t judge me :).

I was sprinting to finish. No kidding. It was the best finish of any race so far. Maybe because of the relief that the long day was over. But most likely because I had a great tune to listen to whilst I was finishing.

Back in normal life when I commute to the office, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts in the morning. But before I step out from the Tube I play myself a few songs from my “Morning cheer up” playlist. The music wakes me up and changes my mood. It’s a great start to the day. I fell like this:

Demolition | ‘Swinging Through’ | Official HD Clip 2016

Demolition in UK cinemas now Subscribe to Fox Searchlight: http://smarturl.it/FoxSearchlightUK For more information please visit, https://www.facebook.com/FoxSearchlightUK Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father in law Phil (Chris Cooper) to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel.

I didn’t stop at the cheer up playlists though. I noticed that when I need to focus and I have to concentrate fast I play the Beaucoup Fish album by Underworld. My brain is so used to this association between this music and focus that I focus much faster and I get into the zone.

There is a pretty good book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. It explains why the deep work is good and how to achieve it.

I’m still experimenting with this. But so far I have my morning cheer up, running, deep focus, thinking about the staff and relax playlists.

But why does it work this way? There are two parts to this answer.


You might have heard about Pavlov’s dog or Classical conditioning.

Pavlov finds out that you can create an association between a stimulus (sound, light) and action. He turned the light on and then gave food to a dog. Few repetitions later, the dog started to salivate when the light went on.

So, if you play yourself the same album every-time while you are in deep focus, you will concentrate easier.

It works on almost any activity that you want to do. Do you want to relax faster and easier? Choose music that fits your mood. Do it few times. After a while, you will relax by listening to that music.


In the book This is your brain on music, Daniel Levitin is talking about the pitch.

“Pitch is one of the primary means by which musical emotions is conveyed. Mood, excitement, calm, romance and danger are signalled by a number of factors, but pitch is among the most decisive. A single high note can convey excitement, a single low note sadness.”

So, if I play music that should cheer me up, it has lots of high notes.

7. Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Vol. 1 track 7 The 1:1 aspect ratio is deliberate and gives the same size when watching on your phone regardless if you hare holding it horizontal or vertical. Do you like the square video or do you prefer standard widescreen 16:9?

Or, If I want music that will make me more relaxed I could listen to this.

Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata (FULL)

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The concept is little more complex than single notes. When notes are strung together we get melodies.

“Melodies are defined by the pattern or relation of successive pitches across time.”

Music written in the West has certain conventions. “Certain sequences of pitches evoke calm, others, excitement.”

The brain learns reaction to this. It’s like speech when rising intonation indicates a question.

“Pitch is so important that the brain represents it directly. If I put electrodes in your auditory cortex and play a pure tone in your ears at 440Hz, there are neurones in your auditory cortex that will fire at precisely that frequency. What goes into the ear comes out of the brain!”

That means that you are directly affecting your brain with music.

How you are going to use this information is up to you. I would suggest experimenting. Create different playlist to fit your needs during the day.

You can start with the morning cheer up playlist :)

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