Can you imagine living a day without music? I can’t, and I’m not alone. Americans listen to 4 hours of music every day. There’s no other activity that we do that takes up as much of our time as listening to music, besides work and sleep that is. Despite music taking up such a significant part of our lives, we rarely stop to think about the quality of the music. We care deeply about the other things we consume like food and TV. You likely avoid specific restaurants for being unhealthy, and change the channel as soon as certain TV shows come on. Yet, we rarely stop to think about the positive and negative influence of the music we listen to.
“Music can change the world because it can change people” – Bono.
Research confirms this.
1. Boost your beliefs and ideas
Some of the most damning evidence that music can be bad for you is that music is a popular method for torturing prisoners. This was devised back in the 1950s and is still widely used today. You may be envisioning the sounds of keyboard mashing and car alarms, but in actuality, the top 11 most popular songs used by the CIA to torture prisoners are songs by mainstream artists. Two of these songs include Eminem’s ”The Real Slim Shady” and “Dirrty” by Christina Aguilera. Without digging too deep into how psychological warfare works, the essence is the focus on sexually illicit lyrics and culturally offensive topics. “If you play it (music) for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken,” Sergeant Mark Hadsell, of Psy Ops, was quoted by the BBC news.
Consider the types of music you hear on the radio and watch on YouTube, and how frequently they’re played. Most likely, over and over again throughout the day. Does your own playlist complement your ideals and beliefs or do you just listen to whatever is on? Take a second to think about it before you press play, and reconsider putting your well being into the hands of someone’s playlist or radio host. Positive music is just a click away.
2. The power of lyrics
“Music is processed across all of the brain, it remains in our long-term memory,” – Clement-Cortes.
Music is memorable. It’s designed to be that way through the use of repetition, rhyme and patterns. That’s the magic formula to how we memorize song lyrics. Chances are you still remember lyrics from your favorite songs from high school and a television ad that used a jingle. Have you ever stopped to really analyze the lyrics? You’d be surprised at what’s being stored in your musical muscle memory. “F*&k love, give me diamonds” is sung repeatedly in the chorus of a famous Iggy Azalea song. “You might as well open your legs up and let a *expletive* poke” are lyrics by Lil Wayne. Despite being a fan of both artists, those lines aren’t something I’d repeat in front of my grandma and are the last things I want stored in my brain. So knowing that you’re going to likely remember the next song you listen to, does that change your perception of the music you listen to? There’s enough bad news going on in the world to fill your brain with any more violent, grotesque or sexist thoughts. Instead, let music be your cheerleader by picking songs with positive lyrics. What are some of your favorite songs with positive lyrics?
3. Recalling memories with music
Hello Adele, I love your music but no matter how happy I am, your songs take me into a dark place over some memory from long ago I’d prefer to forget. Even Adele is noted as saying she can’t listen to her own music without crying. Chances are, your brain is filled with songs that are synonymous with a memory, like your first dance, first date and first car. But not all music memories are happy ones. “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye,” according to Petr Janata, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis’ Center for Mind and Brain. “Now we can see the association between those two things—the music and the memories.”
If the music you listen to is associated with happy memories, then it likely provides you a pick-me-up and encouragement. If instead you’re spending your time listening to music associated with negative or sad memories, you’re unnecessarily causing yourself distress. Stop the whirlwind of negative emotions by ditching your old playlist altogether in favor of creating new memories. As Disney’s Frozen says, “Let it Go”.
4. Change how the world sees you
If every person had their own personal theme song, it would be much easier to understand them before even starting up a conversation. The power of this is most evident during presidential elections where candidates select specific songs to represent their campaigns. This music becomes synonymous with them personally and their core messaging. The same goes for UFC fighters entering the ring. Music sets the pace and expectation of their fight, whether it be with the intention to motivating themselves or intimidating their opponent. Music has the power of creating association. Beyond just the lyrics having meaning, the musical tone, flow and emotion is just as important. “If we hear things that are in major keys, then we have a propensity to associate those with positive emotion. Whereas we hear things in minor keys — we might associate that more with negative emotion,” says Dr. Amy Clement-Cortes, an assistant professor at the Music and Health Research Collaboratory at the University of Toronto. Music with a positive beat can lead your day off to a positive start, and positive lyrics can lead your mindset to making the right decisions along the way. Do you have a personal theme song? Maybe it’s time for you to find one that represents you now and where you want to lead your life story next.
5. Make unpredictability an opportunity to thrive
It can be incredibly difficult to be happy when big changes are happening around you. Especially at work and in family life. Change can be stressful, whether it’s a new project with a huge learning curve, onboarding new staff or working with people you don’t like. Music has the power of helping overcoming some of this discomfort. Science has proven that music releases dopamine in our system, which makes us happy. According to a post on Discovery News, “People love music for much the same reason they’re drawn to sex, drugs, gambling and delicious food, according to new research. When you listen to tunes that move you, the study found, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical involved in both motivation and addiction.” Great music can calm you down and encourage you to keep going.
The same is true in team settings. According to “The Mozart Effect“, studies related to people listening to Mozart’s music, listening to upbeat, positive music like that created by Mozart can induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental task. With the right attitude and a positive music playlist to cheer you on, anything is possible.
Now that you know you’re not just listening, you’re remembering and being influenced, I challenge you to listen to positive music only for 30 days straight. Set yourself up for success by diligently choosing music that will be the soundtrack for your life and success.
Featured photo credit: Karolina Grabowska.STAFFAGE via pexels.com