Can Music Really Change Your Life?
From the moment we first develop consciousness, music has a profound impact on our lives in so many ways. Before we are even born, we can hear and identify sounds in the womb, with studies suggesting that playing classical music to unborn babies can make them more intelligent. We use music as a way to express or generate emotions – as a release, a stimulant and an escape. There is nothing that has the power to so deeply change our moods or define a moment in time as the right song; but just why does music connect with us on so many levels? And how can we harness its power to change our feelings, actions and ultimately our lives?
Insane In The Membrane
Music has been proven to have a deep and lasting effect on our psychology, and studies show that is because the brain responds to music by processing it differently in different areas. MRI scanning has been able to show the extent of involvement that areas of the brain have when a song is played. Areas as diverse as the cerebellum, the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus and the amygdala all work together to create our response to the music that we hear. The amygdala controls our emotional response – explaining why certain types of music are able to create an instant mood. The hippocampus enhances this by creating neural connections with our memory, connecting the music we hear with a vast bank of references and past experiences. The cerebellum meanwhile, controls our physical response – so when you hear that one track that you cannot resist getting up to dance to, it’s this area of the brain which is creating a reaction. This powerful combined response from so many many diverse centres means that our brains literally light up when we hear music -making it no wonder that it’s one of the most stimulating forces we can hope to encounter.
But not only can those opening bars have the power to change our own moods, they can also affect our perception of other people. Our brains are wired to quickly distinguish a mood from a piece of music, and there are different chemical and electrical responses associated with each. In fact, our brains attach two kinds of emotional response to music – perceived emotions, and felt emotions. This allows us to hear music that we understand to be sad, for example, and find it an enjoyable experience. A recent study showed that when subjects were played a short piece of music deemed to be either ‘happy’ or ‘sad’, and then shown a face with a neutral expression, they were significantly more likely to interpret the expression to match the mood of the music they heard. This means that we have the potential to alter not only our mood, but how we interpret the emotions and actions of others, which again creates our own response. So when you’re feeling down, stick on some tunes which take you to a happy place, and you are then less likely to see the actions of others are being negative or hostile – creating a nicer environment around you instantly.
Improving Our Creativity
Sometimes we all need to tap into our creative skills – that overdue report needs to be written, or the big presentation is due – and it will take more than a few cups of coffee to come up with a solution. Music has the power to really give you a boost here as well, thanks to its ability to enhance creativity and focus. A moderate amount of ambient noise has been shown to stimulate creative endeavour and get our brains set on the task at hand. Our brains are mini computers, constantly processing an incoming stream of information and making connections. When a moderate noise level is introduced, the difficulty of processing increases, which boosts our levels of abstract processing – the brain is forced to be more resourceful in creating connections, and this leads to much higher creativity than the normal, straightforward processing. This may explain why ambient noise playlists on Spotify are so popular in busy, open-plan offices. But it’s all about finding that sweet spot to make it work for you – if noise levels before too high, then this brain function quickly becomes overwhelmed, and we’ll then struggle to process information efficiently. So productivity is a delicate balance, but if you can harness the power of music and find somewhere where you can download free beats, it will definitely give your performance an edge.
Learning a Lesson
Another way music can change our lives is if we learn to play an instrument ourselves. This accomplishment has a host of significant benefits, not least the massive enhancement it brings to both our reasoning and our motor skills. These benefits are not just confined to children – even learning to play an instrument as an adult can bring these skills. Our vocabularies, nonverbal reasoning skills and visual analysis have also been shown to be improved by music lessons – so everything from winning an argument to becoming a better driver can be enhanced by learning to play! The way that we understand visual information – relationships between objects, shapes and patterns – may seem fairly remote from picking up those neglected piano or guitar lessons, but now we know it isn’t – so there is a strong argument that anyone seeking to enhance their life should try learning a few bars!
Getting Our Dream Body
Improving our health and figures is another area where music really can change the game, but having a profound effect on performance, wellbeing and outcome. At its most basic level, music interferes with the brain signals that tell us our muscles are becoming fatigued, so it can push us to work much harder through splitting our brain’s attention when we would otherwise be focused on our tiredness. The greatest reaction occurs through low and moderate intensity exercise – so activities such as going for a run are ideally paired with a great playlist. But the benefits don’t stop there – music can also help our bodies to use energy more efficiently. A study has shown that cyclists who listened to music actually required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same pace as those who were in silence – so you’re getting a more efficient anaerobic response simply by plugging in your headphones. Around 145 beats per minute has shown to be the optimal rate for increasing this physical and emotional effect, which means that dubstep, hip-hop and house music are the winning genres for a strong performance,.