Music can be a powerful mood elevator that releases dopamine, improves our outlook, relieves stress, helps us focus, and gets us motivated at the gym. It can be used to make your drive better, too, whether it’s a cross-country trip or a grueling commute. But mastering your driving playlist goes beyond making a perfect mix of favorites—though that’s certainly recommended. Let’s let science explain how.
Sad music can actually make you feel better
If you want to power through a punishing drive, listening to happy music might be your first inclination, but the opposite will do you good, too: Sad music can make your morning commute more enjoyable and set you up for an energized and productive day. According to a survey study conducted by Ford, Spotify, and New York University, listening to melancholy songs can boost your mood during your drive, and the effects will linger for up to two hours after you’ve reached your destination.
Amy Belfi, a cognitive neuroscientist with NYU, explains:
‘Sad’ songs can actually make us feel good about ourselves. They may remind us, for example, of difficult experiences that we have overcome and learned from.
Drive better by listening to “heartbeat” songs
On a nice day, I love to roll down the windows and blare my music as I cruise the highway, but loud music and high tempos can negatively affect my safety. Auto insurance company Direct Connect London reported on a study by University psychologist Dr. Simon Moore that found listening to loud, fast-paced music can trigger more dangerous driving.
Instead, try listening to music that mimics the rhythm and tempo of your heartbeat. This will keep the dopamine flowing and help you maintain a calm, resting heart rate, so you can focus on sharing the road safely. Dr. Moore recommends switching out M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” for “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA (even though “Paper Planes” is a banger in the summertime).
Dr. Moore also provides a list of songs to add to your safe driving playlist:
- “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones
- “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, (Feat. Bruno Mars)
- “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
- “The Scientist” by Coldplay
- “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John
- “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake
- “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
- “Karma Police” by Radiohead
- “Never Had a Dream Come True” by S Club 7
- “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver
- “God’s Plan” by Drake
- “Lucid Dreams by Juice WRLD
- “SADI” by XXXTENTACION
- “IDGAF” by Dua Lipa
- “Taste” by Tyga (Feat. Offset)
- “All the Stars (with SZA)” by Kendrick Lamar
- “Eastside (with Halsey & Khalid)” by Benny Blanco
- “2002” by Anne-Marie“River” by Eminem (Feat. Ed Sheeran)
- “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man