Two brainy, and I imagine beardy, scientists Jacob Jolij and Maaike Meurs have found that listening to music can have a dramatic effect on your mood and, more importantly, our perceptions of the world around us.
They found that music, particularly songs relevant to memories or those that evoke feelings can help to motivate and inspire. Using a large array of different music styles, including birdsong, the scientists from the University of Groningen played music to people, asking them to summarise their views by selecting the correct emoji. Unsurprisingly melancholic music made people feel sad, whilst ethereal music made people feel distant and spaced out.
Interestingly this isn’t the first study that has found a link between music and our mood. This time scientists at Northwestern University found that are mood is also being affected subconsciously by music. Using fancy pants science-y wizardry they purported that just hearing music in the background has an impact upon the way our brain functions.
Crucially this goes way beyond humans but also takes place within the animal kingdom. Birds use song as a way to encouraging mating, but also as a reflection of their mood. Just like humans the auditory signals enter the bird’s brain through their brainstem: where they think sentience lies in our brain. So, in layman’s terms, the noises that we hear around us help to determine our mood, and this has been the case for some time.
So what does this mean for the songs we choose?
Picking songs for your activity will help determine your level of success. If you know, for instance, that you have an important meeting or you are worrying about an approaching deadline, using music as a way to relax is a great idea.
Sport too has been shown to be enhanced by the addition of music. In 2010, Karageorghis, a sports scientist found that listening to music that matches the cadence of your exercise improved performance and maintained levels of motivation.
What about where I can’t listen to music?
We’ve all been there. There are some places where we can’t listen to music. Whilst leading a meeting, or teaching a class full of students, it would be impractical to be able to listen to songs. There is a way to get around this however.
Scientists have also shown that thinking of a song, or humming a song in your head can evoke the same feelings or emotions as actually listening to the song itself.
As always though this does need practice. So next time you are worried about a situation, why not try humming a song in your head?
Which song would be playing in your head to calm you down? Let us know in the comments.