These Sounds Are Getting Us Through Tough Times

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Given what a rough year 2020 has been, it's no wonder we've been relying more and more on our headphones to get us through it. Even if you no longer have a long commute, you still probably rely on some kind of soundtrack to keep your brain where you want it. This isn't a question of which artists won the streaming wars this year, though.


Spotify has been tracking its users' listening habits through the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are learning, at the conclusion of this year, that white noise played a particularly outsized role in their regular playlists. We're relying on all kinds of "ambient music, background noise, and calming sound effects," as the ​New York Times​ puts it, to get through the day. Some of that is thanks to tracks we use as nightly sleep aids, while others are simply ways we tamp down anxiety or soothe any other pandemic-related cares.

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It's not just Spotify: You can browse YouTube for hours, skipping through multi-hour tracks as simple as a crackling fire or a crowded coffee shop. The website lets you "forest-bathe" from a selection of woodlands all around the world, for those who can't hug a tree right away. We already know that playing music can make our brains more efficient, and that soundproofing your workspace, even on the cheap, can be a huge boon to our concentration. Some background noise can help us tune in to our flow state. Whatever works best for you, the internet is always ready to supply.