Wrapping up Spotify and how our listening habits affect mental health

Key Takeaways

  • Every December Spotify Wrapped shows users who they listened to the most that year.
  • Since its inception, it has become a major moment of self-reflection for music fans, who often place part of their identity in the results.
  • Users tend to view these roundups as a window into their mental health status, but unpacking the correlation is complicated.
  • Although there is an obvious link between music and mental health, it’s important not to overanalyze your habits.

One of the most eagerly awaited days of the year for many music fans is the first day of December when Spotify Wrapped is released. Although it started as an email, it has evolved into an interactive experience modeled on graphically attractive social media layouts that users can share on their personal accounts.

And it’s not just Spotify. Sites like have allowed music fans to track their listening habits for years—it was founded in 2002—and there are countless third-party apps that let people find out which artists, songs, or genres they listen to the most. heard more Often throughout the year.

Listeners delight in these figures because it gives them a moment of self-reflection through the lens of their own musical taste. Have I heard more upbeat or down-tempo artists? More sad girl indie or hyper-pop remixes? And what does this assortment of artists and genres say about my mental health?

Our music, our mental health

It can be easy to romanticize our mental health and the music we listen to. Think about how moody or upsetting music is often seen as cool or edgy. Meanwhile, certain genres and subcultures, such as goth and emo, are more associated with angst and moodiness—and often, poor mental health.

The correlation isn’t true for many listeners—many happy people enjoy genres like heavy metal—but others who struggle with their mental health find comfort in hearing an artist sing about dealing with the same things they do.

Yet, for many people who listen to ‘sad’ music, it can become an almost romantic part of their identity. This raises a few questions: Is listening to sad music a coping mechanism that helps, or does it just reinforce that low mood? Could it be a low mood? And would it be better to listen to more upbeat, cheerful music?

There are many possible answers, and research pulls in both directions.

Studies have shown associations between specific genres of music and vulnerability to suicide, drug use, and antisocial behavior. However, music doesn’t seem to be the reason. Rather, music preferences may indicate emotional vulnerability.

Adam Fisek, psychotherapist

Studies have shown that excessive listening to certain types of music can provoke dysfunctional rumination that is closely related to depression.

– Adam Fisek, psychotherapist

That being said, we should be cost conscious very Many times the reason for listening to sad music is, “It can be problematic and harmful to mental health, especially in teenagers,” as Adam Fisek, psychotherapist and spokesman for the UK Council for Psychotherapy, explains.

“Research has shown that excessive listening to certain types of music can provoke dysfunctional rumination that is closely linked to depression.”

“Continuous reinforcement of these habits can induce a feedback loop known as ‘evaluative conditioning,’ in which ruminative and depressive feelings are consistently associated with the experience of listening to the same music,” Fickek added. This neural stimulation of hearing a particular piece of music deepens the sensory experience into our implicit memory through repeated paired associations.”

So if the music we listen to mimics our moods, could it be a helpful tool for healing? The answer is not so clear. The well-meaning advice of listening to happy music as a mood enhancer may not always be right for everyone. Sad and moody music can be effortlessly relatable and comforting, while allowing the listener to feel their feelings.

Musical taste and identity

Our musical tastes are woven into our identity—it’s a big part of what makes an annual listening roundup so interesting. Many common subcultures, from punk to hip-hop to goth to emo, have music at their core. Even being part of a particular band or artist’s fandom can form a huge part of one’s identity.

This is perhaps more evident today with the rise of social media and ‘stan’ culture, but we see examples of this throughout the 20th century. There was the Beatlemania of the 1960s, the massive popularity of Nirvana and the alternative rock scene of the early 1990s (Kurt Cobain’s mental health struggles would leave an impression on a generation), and of course the boy bands and teen pop stars of the early 2000s. . .

When Take That, perhaps the biggest British boy band since One Direction, announced their split in 1996, mental health charity Samaritans went so far as to set up a helpline for distraught fans.

So can fandom go too far, and even affect our mental health? For dedicated fans, there can be some kind of pressure to make sure their favorite artist is their top artist for the year. And with features that show fans whether they’re in the top 0.01% or top 2% of their favorite artist’s audience, for example, there’s also an element of competition.

There is a danger that we are changing why We listen to music. There’s more functionality about it because we’re showing other people how big fans we are of our favorite artist. Even if, for some people, it means listening to them thousands of times.

Music as a tool for healing

“With the current political climate, war, the effects of global warming and ongoing physical and mental health challenges from Covid, times can be quite difficult,” says Nicholas Burns, certified hypnotherapist and mindfulness teacher. He describes them as “affecting our sense of security and quality of life in the world”.

It’s been a tough few years, so maybe people don’t want to hear upbeat or happy music all the time. But music can really help our mental health.

“For many people, music can play a role in making a positive quality of life change,” Burns explains. “The connection to music is very personal. The relationship with music can be a very beautiful, fragile and often complex dance that changes from moment to moment based on our moods, preferences, social situations and previous experiences.

“There are times when music can have a palpable and immediate effect on our well-being, whether it’s helpful to fall asleep to a soothing playlist, or how to bring about emotional self-expression through singing and connecting with others. A live musical By participating in the performance.”

In fact, many people use Spotify for relaxation, meditation, or simply healing. White and brown noise playlists and all kinds of ambient artists are very popular on Spotify. Meanwhile, a 2016 study suggested that people with mental health conditions use music to reduce negative emotions.

Prevent overanalyzing your wrapped playlist

Music has such an impact on our lives, it’s no wonder we’re fascinated by our own listening habits and want to read more about them. And of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If you’re a huge Beyoncé fan, you’ll be happy to read that you’re in the top 2% of her audience, for example.

But it’s important not to overanalyze the results. Whether you’re listening to your favorite album, revisiting a song from your childhood, or checking out an up-and-coming band, listening to music should be enjoyable.

Nicholas Burns, Hypnotherapist and Mindfulness Teacher

The relationship with music can be a very beautiful, fragile and often complex dance that changes from moment to moment based on our moods, preferences, social situations and previous experiences.

– Nicholas Burns, hypnotherapist and mindfulness teacher

It can be hard not to, however. This year, Spotify even assigned everyone from The Adventurer to The Fanclubber a ‘Listening Personality’ type in the style of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Ficek contrasts a healthy approach with an unhealthy approach. “A healthy approach to advertising your favorite artists on Spotify is underpinned by a secure identity, confidence and using the opportunity as an extension of who you represent as a music fan,” he says.

“An unhealthy approach involves curating an inauthentic, ‘false self’ identity in an attempt to create greater personal appeal and attract external validation from other music fans. This need for external validation can lead to stress and pressure to appeal to other music fans in order to feel good about themselves.”

You may go through a phase of listening to sad music at one time of year if you’re going through something difficult, or more upbeat music if you’re training for a race. We can go through different stages of music enjoyment.

Perhaps you listen to energetic music when you exercise, relaxing music when you work or study, and white noise or nature sounds when you go to sleep. It’s almost impossible to get all of these in your Spotify Wrapped, so it’s best not to overthink things all together.

What does this mean for you?

Regardless of your favorite genre or style, music has both mental and physical benefits. Spotify Wrapped is also fun, but we shouldn’t read too much into it.

Listening to sad music when we’re feeling down can help us in some ways, making us feel less alone, but sometimes listening to happy music can also help. If you’re worried that listening to sad music isn’t helping your mood, change the vibe and try not to put your identity too much into your listening habits.

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