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5 Music Hacks That’ll Improve Every Aspect Of Your Life

5 Music Hacks That’ll Improve Every Aspect Of Your Life

Music is often called a universal language. It’s something that almost every culture shares, and for that reason, most people enjoy playing or listening to music. And while you might think music is good for concerts and background noise alone, it’s actually beneficial for so many more reasons. Here are some of our favorite music hacks, guaranteed to make your life easier and happier. Consider putting some tunes on before reading this article. Who knows? You might discover some hacks of your own along the way.

1. Music makes you smarter.

This is a pretty old concept, and while it’s been tested and retested many times over the years, some of it really is true. Playing music or having some kind of music education has been proven to improve math scores in younger students. For you songbirds out there, singing does fall into the category of “playing music,” so you’re just as likely to benefit as cellists and saxophonists. Other studies have looked into how music affects performance in other areas, such as verbal and science skills, as well as if musicians are overall “smarter” people. This is more of a gray area, and many people disagree on the validity of these claims.

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2. Music can help you have a better workout.

Not only does music help motivate exercisers, but it’s been shown to help people take on more intense workouts. According to some, the ideal BPM (beats per minute) is around 130, give or take a few beats. People who listen to music while exercising are shown to work harder and for longer. Next time you decide to lace up your running shoes, try to listen to a playlist that gets you pumped up. You’ll have a better, happier workout because of it.

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3. Music can reduce stress.

If you’re feeling overworked, anxious, or tense, listening to music might be a good way to calm down and relax. There has been a substantial amount of research done on the soothing powers of music. It shows that not only does music distract us from our problems, but it can also help us get in touch with emotions that might be harder to explore without music. Sometimes, these benefits can be seen through changes in blood pressure and heart rate, especially when listening to calming music.

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4. Music makes people happy.

There’s nothing as basic as happiness. Music has been shown time and time again to increase humans’ happiness, both when listening to it and playing it. According to this study, the brain releases dopamine when music is heard. This is the same chemical that is released when we eat food and have sex. It’s an addiction chemical, meaning we always want more of it. This is part of the reason that music makes us so happy so often. What’s really interesting is that this happiness that comes from music is very global, meaning there is virtually no one who doesn’t share your same love of music — even if the genres are different.

5. Music helps you sleep.

Listening to music may help you go to sleep and stay asleep. According to the BBC, listening to music before going to bed may help you go to sleep. Calming music, particularly instrumental music, may help you get in a bedtime frame of mind. This same study as reported by the BBC states that people who listened to calming, slower music before going to bed were also able to stay asleep more soundly. Additionally, they were able to perform better throughout the following day. We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, so consider listening to some soothing classical or jazz music before hitting the sheets tonight. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Featured photo credit: Chris JL via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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