By Somali K Chakrabarti
Music and rhythm find their secret way into our soul. ~Plato
We all listen to music, often being oblivious of the mysterious way in which it affects our mind. So profound is the effect of music on human emotions that it can energize you, recharge you, freeze you in the moment, make you nostalgic or boost your mood on a day when you are feeling low.
Here are 4 ways in which music helps us to improve our state of mind and performance at work.
The effect of listening to good music is the same as the effect of seeing a beautiful painting or work of art. It releases endorphins in the brain and recharges us. Mental stimulation can improve brain function and enhance work performance.
Music is a good motivator during workouts – It gives a rhythmic stimulus to the brain besides diverting attention from the monotony of exercise. Jogging, walking, cycling or cardio exercises are more pleasurable with music in the background. Exercise appears less tedious as you instinctively adjust your pace of exercise with the beats of the music.
Trance music, for instance, with the repetitive musical loops may cause listeners to flow to a rhythm, invigorate them and elevate their mood. Neuroscientists also recommend listening to upbeat classical music during exercise as it has the dual effect of energizing as well as relaxing people.
Listening to music even for half an hour while working out in the morning can give a good start to your day.
Music motivates, inspires and unites
Music evokes feelings and emotions. Since times immemorial, leaders have used the inspiring force of music to motivate people. Inspirational music can be uplifting. People draw strength and support from inspirational songs. Transcending the barriers of languages and regions, music can bring together and unite people for a cause.
We shall overcome, a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement has conveyed the message of solidarity and hope to people worldwide. The song been translated in many different languages and been sung innumerable times in different countries across the world. The song along with its regional adaptations is popular in schools in India.
Music soothes and relaxes
The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thoughts.
Listening to the right kind of music can soothe you, put you in a state of relaxation and relieve you of tension.
The rhythmic chanting of mantras and recital of stuti may connect you with your spiritual self and give a peaceful feeling. Listening to some of your favorite songs can bring live good memories from the past and put you in a better frame of mind.
The crescendo of an orchestra captivates and binds the audience. Images of waves or of couples whirling in a ballroom dance may automatically conjure up in your mind, when you listen to western classical instrumentals such as The Blue Danube Waltz or The Swan Lake.
All it takes is 1 song to bring back 1000 memories
Music has therapeutic use for those with motor disorders, or to people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. People with Alzheimer’s disease are known to respond to the evocative powers of music.
Expecting mothers and mothers of new born babies are advised to listen to music to reduce stress levels, enhance the stimulation of the unborn baby’s growing brain, improve sleeping patterns for a newborn baby and develop better bonding with the child.
Music therapy is also used for anger management and for developing conflict resolution skills.
Music can increase productivity at work
For some people listening to a familiar tune improves mood helps them to concentrate better and be creative, and thus improves productivity. Research on ‘Effect of music on Performance’ by Dr Teresa Lesiuk (University of Miami) suggests that playing background music while performing repetitive tasks enhances the efficiency in performing the task. It may be beneficial to listen to music you are familiar with, if you need to intensely focus for a project.
However there are others, who cannot have it on, in the background, when they work as it does not allow them to focus on any other mental activity.
The same research on also indicates that listening to music can impede the absorption and retention of new information. Lyrics can be a distraction when engaging in language related tasks (like writing).
While listening to music in moderation can boost productivity, care should be taken not to overdo it as music in excess can become coercive. As we are naturally prone to be sensitive to music, this sensitivity can slip out of control – and on some rare occasions the effects can stretch too far and can induce seizures or trances. [i]
In an article titled “The Power of Music”, found in Brain: A Journal of Neurology (Volume 129, Issue 10, brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/129/10/2528.full), Oliver Sachs wrote the following:
We see the coercive power of music if it is of excessive volume, or has an overwhelming beat, at rock concerts where thousands of people, as one, may be taken over, engulfed or entrained by the music, just as the beat of war drums can incite extreme martial excitement and solidarity.
Would like to put in a word of caution here that as much as music may refresh you, there is still no logic in having your headphones on and being lost in music while crossing the road, as many people often do nowadays.
Sharing here a list of 10 beautiful pieces of western instrumental compositions that can relax and recharge you:
- The Blue Danube (Waltz) by Johann Strauss II
- Roses from the South (Waltz) by Johann Strauss II
- Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky
- Swan Lake by James Last
- Romance Beethoven by James Last
- Emperor Waltz by Andre Rieu
- Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky Korsakov
- Lara’s Theme from Dr Zhivago – Henry Manchini
- Oldschool Trance Vinyl –mix
- Trance Energy1
All the numbers can be found on YouTube. A special thanks to my cousin for reconnecting me with music.
When do you prefer to listen to music? What type of music that motivates you, energizes you or puts you on a high?
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[i]The Power of Music, Brain: A Journal of Neurology (Volume 129, Issue 10, brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/129/10/2528.full)
[ii] The Effect of Music Listening on Work Performance, Psychology of Music, TERESA LESIUK, 2005