Studies show the promising effects of music on mental performance

Classes at work or school may seem lonely and boring, but science shows that music can keep you energized and help you be productive.

How music stimulates the brain

Listening to music won't make you a genius, but it is scientifically proven to improve your cognitive abilities.

People of all age groups can take advantage of these benefits. In 2016, researchers reported that background music helps children write more fluently than those who write essays in silence. In older adults, background music has been shown to increase their ability to process new information.

The effect of music on information processing and memory may be due to the activation of certain neural pathways. By scanning people's brains as they memorize words, researchers have found that listening to music, more so than silence, helps separate words and break them down into familiar parts. This process makes it easier to remember information. A 2015 study also found that brain scans reduced prefrontal cortex activity while listening to music, suggesting that music makes it easier to retrieve temporary memories associated with music.

In addition, Spotify sessions help you focus on your tasks. William Schroeder, a counselor who founded Just Mind Counseling in Austin, Texas, says, "Listening can help you organize your thoughts and free your mind from what's bothering you. Because music can activate several brain circuits at once, it can stimulate memory as well as brain areas related to concentration, pleasure and motivation, he explains.

Choice of genres

There may not be one type of music that works best for productive work, and it's probably a matter of personal preference. Schroeder's clients listen to everything from rap music to Harry Potter soundtracks while performing complex mental tasks. According to Schroeder, some of his clients are willing to work with upbeat pop music.

For those who have difficulty focusing on work or are easily distracted, soft and relaxing songs are offered. "I call it a compensatory strategy that can be used in place of stimulants or caffeine. If you decide to take a break, listening to relaxing music will help you focus on work again.

It's tempting to play a new album by your favorite artist right away, but you can get caught up in the lyrics. According to the Harvard Business Review, this distraction takes time. It takes the average person about 15 minutes to complete a task. Even small distractions, such as radio commercials, can throw you off track. To avoid distractions, Schroeder suggests choosing music that is not actively interesting.

"My personal advice to people is to use a device that can be set to 'Do Not Disturb,' whether it's your phone, laptop or Apple TV. Or distract yourself by avoiding memory-stimulating music."

Turns out, you don't even have to play that song. Listening to white noise or nature sounds can help you learn by blocking out distractions. In one experiment, white noise helped adults remember new phrases more accurately than those who learned words silently. According to Schroeder, even white noise and ASMR can reduce anxiety.

Different tasks, different songs

If you're doing critical thinking or doing tasks that require memorization, a song without lyrics may not distract you. And while the Mozart effect, which claims that listening to classical music increases overall intelligence, is largely ignored, there is some scientific evidence that classical music helps us learn new information. Students who listened to classical music during lectures and fell asleep to the same song had an 18% increase in memorization of concepts the next day.

Why listen to music at all? Music certainly has its benefits, but working in silence doesn't always have its drawbacks. As it turns out, tunes may be better for some people than others. A 2017 study found that music benefits people with more working memory. Other studies have also shown how intelligence scores vary from person to person.

Music tastes can change in a single session, too. Start with playlists to unleash your creativity when writing an essay, but then turn them off to focus on writing in greater detail.

Schroeder says he advises clients to treat the situation like a salad because there are so many ingredients to choose from when they work. You can start by making a Greek salad and mix it to your liking.

Experiment with different sounds to find what works for you.


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