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How Playing Music Can Rewire Your Brain

How Playing Music Can Rewire Your Brain

Music is truly one of the most amazing things the human mind has come up with! There is not a single person in the world who doesn’t like some piece of music, or some song. Everybody likes listening to music, some while studying, while sleeping, working, or hanging out with friends. Music invokes various emotions in us, depending on what type of music you are listening to. It can help you get through hard times, enhance happy moments, and even teach you valuable life lessons. This is why musicians tend to have different thinking and learning patterns, compared to people who just listen to music casually.

Brain functions and music are deeply connected. When children start playing and learning about music, their brain starts to pay more attention to certain sounds and, as they develop musically, it processes those sounds to the sharpest detail. A study at Stanford, which was performed by taking images of people listening to short lasting symphonies, has shown many interesting insights into how our brain can understand the world through sounds.

This whole research process has shown that music is directly connected to parts of the brain involved in decision making, paying attention, concentration and memory. The points when the brain had the most activity were surprisingly the moments when there was silence in between music.

How music changes people and their thinking

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Musician with fedora

    Over the past decade, music and its influence on people has been subjected to many studies and scientific research. Many recent ones have shown that the left and right hemispheres of musicians are much more connected. Many scientists have used functional magnetic resonance imaging, also called FMRI, to determine what brain parts are being used the most during a certain activity. A music study conducted at Stanford used this technology and has determined that many music techniques can help our brain organize incoming information in a much better way. Some people also claim that your brain performs the most beneficial activities when you play or listen to music.

    You get confidence and intellectual capacities

    Rory Gallagher jumping on stage

      No matter if music is your hobby or a career choice, you have a lot to be thankful because music has empowered you with many attributes that you might not even notice. One type of music in particular has the most visible effect on the people who play and create it – Rock music! Rock musicians (or any other hard music genre) tend to have empowering thoughts about themselves and it affects their behavior deeply.

      Powerful music with heavy tunes encourages deeper, abstract, and visionary thinking with an increased level of illusionary control – these are all attributes which are frequently associated with intellectually strong people. Not many people are musicians and because of that, this group of people deserve a special place in society. This will make you will feel special and give you a huge confidence boost. The fact that you will have your own fan base who appreciates your work is also appealing and it can make you feel like a god!

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      You get a concentration boost

      Performing on stage

        If you are musician whose interest is mostly classical and baroque music, then you probably have improved concentration, memory, and focus. Ambient music can help you develop relaxed alertness and a down to earth outlook on the world. Music with lyrics is generally proven to be more distracting for your brain when you listen to it because music and lyrics will compete for the brain’s attention and this can make it harder for you to concentrate and focus on one thing at a time.

        However, with some people, this can develop the ability to focus even better! When you can hear the lyrics and all the other instruments in one song, then you will find it a lot easier to listen to someone while there is a big crowd of people around you making noise. When a guitarist plays his guitar and sings at the same time, he trains his brain to be more focused when multitasking.

        You experience artistic creativity

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        Cassette tape playing guitar

          One of the biggest reasons music is considered to be art is the fact that you need to have creativity in order to create it. Even if you weren’t quite creative at the start, over time, playing your instrument has encouraged your brain to develop divergent thinking and to think about new possibilities.

          When you listen or create something that is abstract and unfamiliar at that moment, it can inspire your brain to come up with brand new, fresh ideas. This will not only affect creating new music, but also other aspects of your life, career, relationships, education, etc. Because of this, it’s clear why it’s not uncommon to see musicians easily perform creative actions such as writing, painting or something else.

          Being a musician makes your life fuller

          As a musician, you will have many benefits in life! Besides the fact that your mind will work differently than most people, you will also be looked on differently, and having a musician role in society carries certain perks. Musicians have always been special because they can do something that most people can’t – understand music, create it, and play it. As an artist, or an entertainer, (whichever you prefer better) you will be much more attractive to people and this is why musicians find partners much easier.

          Being on stage and performing is an amazing experience for you as a musician, but it is also very appealing to people who have come to your show to listen to you. This is especially true if you are good at it! People will want to talk to you, ask you questions, call you to play at their parties, get to know your experiences and much more.

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          As a musician, you will meet a lot of people and establish long lasting bonds, so make sure to use the opportunities you have been given as an artist. When you are a musician, you will get the feeling that it’s all about you!

          Now, when you have learned about the scientific and life aspect of music, you can start to use these facts how you see fit! Teach your children to play an instrument when they are really young, but don’t force them to do something if they are not interested. Being a musician is a privilege, so live your life to the fullest!

          More by this author

          Ivan Dimitrijevic

          Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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          Last Updated on August 20, 2019

          How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

          How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

          Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

          Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

          I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

          You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

          Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

          When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

          I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

          Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

          Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

          Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

          1. The Inner Critic

          This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

          • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
          • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
          • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
          • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

          The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

          Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

          2. The Worrier

          This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

          The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

          3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

          This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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          This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

          The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

          4. The Sleep Depriver

          This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

          The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

          • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
          • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
          • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
          • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

          How can you control these squatters?

          How to Master Your Mind

          You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

          Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

          There are two ways to control your thoughts:

          • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
          • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

          This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

          The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

          Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

          For the Inner Critic

          When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

          You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

          For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

          You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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          “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

          If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

          • They rile up the Worrier.
          • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
          • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
          • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
          • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

          Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

          Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

          For the Worrier

          Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

          Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

          You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

          • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
          • Muscles tense

          Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

          If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

          Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

          “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

          Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

          If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

          Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

          Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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          For example:

          If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

          “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

          Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

          “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

          Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

          For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

          Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

          The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

          • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
          • Muscles tension

          I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

          Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

          Breathe in through your nose:

          • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
          • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
          • Focus on your belly rising.

          Breathe out through your nose:

          • Feel your lungs emptying.
          • Focus on your belly falling.
          • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

          Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

          Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

          One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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          Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

          For the Sleep Depriver

          (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

          I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

          Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

          1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
          2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

          When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

          From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

          For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

          If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

          You can also use this technique any time you want to:

          • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
          • Shut down your thinking.
          • Calm your feelings.
          • Simply focus on the present moment. 

          The Bottom Line

          Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

          You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

          Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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