9 ways music can improve your life
If there was a spell that could help you become smarter, save lives, and find love, would you use it?
The music you love tells me who you are
Ever been a bit judgy when you hear someone's taste in music? Of course you have.
And you were right — music tells you a lot about someone's personality.
Research has learned a great deal about the power of music:
1. Your musical taste does accurately tell me about you, including your politics.2. Your musical taste is influenced by your parents.3. You love your favorite song because it's associated with an intense emotional experience in your life.4. The music you enjoyed when you were 20 you will probably love for the rest of your life.5. And, yes, rockstars really do live fast and die young.
But enough trivia. It also turns out music affects your behavior — and much more than you might think.
The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. ["The Effect of Country Music on Suicide" from Social Forces]
Music is so powerful it's even possible to become addicted to music.
But can we really use scientific research on music to improve our lives? Absolutely.
Here are nine ways:
1. Music helps you relax
Yes, research shows music is relaxing.
I know, I know, obvious, right? But what you might not know is the type of music that helps people relax best.
Need to chill out? Skip the pop and jazz and head for the classical.
As Richard Wiseman writes:
Blood pressure readings revealed that listening to pop or jazz music had the same restorative effect as total silence. In contrast, those who listened to Pachelbel and Vivaldi relaxed much more quickly, and so their blood pressure dropped back to the normal level in far less time. [59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute]
(More things that relieve stress are here.)
2. Angry music improves your performance
We usually think of anger as something that's just universally bad. But the emotion has positive uses too.
Anger focuses attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals.
When test subjects listened to angry music while playing video games, they got higher scores.
What Tamir and her colleagues found was that people preferred to listen to the angry music before playing Soldier of Fortune. Faced with a task in which anger might serve a useful function, facilitating the shooting of enemies, participants opted for an anger boost. What's more, listening to the angry music actually improved performance… [The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You)]
(More on how to boost productivity here.)
3. Music reduces pain
When ibuprofen isn't doing the job, it might be time to put on your favorite song.
Research shows it can reduce pain:
Preferred music was found to significantly increase tolerance and perceived control over the painful stimulus and to decrease anxiety compared with both the visual distraction and silence conditions. ["An investigation of the effects of music and art on pain perception" from Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts]
(More research based tricks for reducing pain here.)
4. Music can give you a better workout
What's the best thing to have on your iPod at the gym?
The weight room is no place to try new genres. Playing your favorites can boost performance:
The performance under Preferred Music (9.8 +/- 4.6 km) was greater than under Nonpreferred Music (7.1 +/- 3.5 km) conditions. Therefore, listening to Preferred Music during continuous cycling exercise at high intensity can increase the exercise distance, and individuals listening to Nonpreferred Music can perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise. ["Effects of preferred and nonpreferred music on continuous cycling exercise performance" from PerceptMotSkills]
(More ways to improve your health here.)
5. Music can help you find love
Want to get the interest of that special someone? Put on the romantic music.
Women were more likely to give their number to men after hearing love songs:
…the male confederate asked the participant for her phone number. It was found that women previously exposed to romantic lyrics complied with the request more readily than women exposed to the neutral ones. ["'Love is in the air': Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request" from Psychology of Music]
(More on how science can make you a better kisser here.)
6. Music can save a life
Do you know the proper way to give CPR chest compressions? Turns out timing is key.
And how can you best remember that timing during an emergency?
…Dr. John Hafner of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria had 15 physicians and med students perform the 100-compression procedure (on mannequins) while listening to the Bee Gees classic "Stayin' Alive." As Hafner reports in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, their mean compression rate was an excellent 109.1. Five weeks later, they repeated the exercise while singing the song to themselves as a "musical memory aid." Their mean rate increased to 113.2. The medical professionals reported that the "mental metronome" improved both "their technical ability and confidence in providing CPR." [Pacific Standard]
(More things that can improve your health and happiness here.)
7. Music can improve your work — sometimes
Does music at the office make you work better or just distract you? It's a much debated issue and the answer is not black and white.
…a comparison of studies that examined background music compared to no music indicates that background music disturbs the reading process, has some small detrimental effects on memory, but has a positive impact on emotional reactions… ["The impact of background music on adult listeners: A meta-analysis" from Psychology of Music]
Noise exerted a positive effect on cognitive performance for the ADHD group and deteriorated performance for the control group, indicating that ADHD subjects need more noise than controls for optimal cognitive performance. ["Listen to the noise: noise is beneficial for cognitive performance in ADHD." from J Child Psychol Psychiatry]
And music with positive lyrics makes you more helpful and collaborative.
(More on what will make you successful here.)
8. Use music to make you smarter
But there's even research that says listening to classical music might boost brainpower as well:
Within 15 minutes of hearing the lecture, all the students took a multiple-choice quiz featuring questions based on the lecture material. The results: the students who heard the music-enhanced lecture scored significantly higher on the quiz than those who heard the music-free version. [Pacific Standard]
(More on the most powerful way to easily get smarter here.)
9. Music can make you a better person
Need to soften someone's heart? Maybe even your own?
Playing music can make you more compassionate:
In a year-long program focused on group music-making, 8- to 11-year old children became markedly more compassionate, according to a just-published study from the University of Cambridge. The finding suggests kids who make music together aren't just having fun: they're absorbing a key component of emotional intelligence. [Pacific Standard]
Venezuela made music lessons mandatory. What happened? Crime went down and fewer kids dropped out of school:
A simple cost-benefit framework is used to estimate substantive social benefits associated with a universal music training program in Venezuela (B/C ratio of 1.68). Those social benefits accrue from both reduced school drop-out and declining community victimization. This evidence of important social benefits adds to the abundant evidence of individual gains reported by the developmental psychology literature. ["Music to My Ears: The (Many) Socio-Economic Benefits of Music Training Programs" from Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department]
(More on how to be a better person here.)
So music not only says a lot about you, it provides a myriad of easy ways to make your life better:
1. Music can help you relax2. Angry music improves your performance3. Music reduces pain4. Music can give you a better workout5. Music can help you find love6. Music can save a life7. Music can improve your work — sometimes8. Use music to make you smarter9. Music can make you a better person
Most importantly: Music makes us feel good, and in the end, that's worth a lot.
Speaking of music that makes you feel good, ever wondered what English sounds like to people who don't speak it?
Then you'll love this song.
"An Italian singer wrote this song with gibberish to sound like English. If you've ever wondered what other people think Americans sound like, this is it."
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