Music, as Dick Clark once said, is the soundtrack of your life. Even if you weren’t exactly aware of that, it’s true. You’re probably listening to music while in your car, dancing with your significant other, or dining in an upscale restaurant. And, there’s also a good chance that you rely on music to motivate you to get things done.
In fairness, this isn’t a groundbreaking idea. John Wanamaker, for example, installed an organ in his department store in 1909 to energize his employees in the morning. Similarly, a radio program called “Music While You Work” was developed in the early 1940s to play music for factory workers.
The reason behind these initiatives? To boost productivity, but did this actually work?
Well, there are several possible reasons. For starters, music can give us more energy and enthusiasm while focusing on everyday tasks. What’s more, listening to music can reduce stress and maintain focus. And, music has the power to improve our moods — when we’re happy, we’re more productive.
There is a catch, however. The only way to experience these benefits is by listening to the right music at the right time.
In his research, Greenberg and Spotify found three critical elements of an excellent wakeup song:
- Getting up should be gradual: It should gently wake you up before it gradually raises your energy level.
- The song should be positive: A song about heartbreak won’t get you out of bed in the morning.
- When a song makes you feel like dancing – it will contain strong “beats on count 2 and 4 of each measure—usually with the bass and drums—with a BPM of approximately 100 to 130.” Haha, lying in bed won’t be an option.
What songs contain these elements? Good question. According to the researchers, here are the best songs to wake up to;
- Coldplay – Viva La Vida
- St. Lucia – Elevate
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Downtown
- Bill Withers – Lovely Day
- Avicii – Wake Me Up
- Pentatonix – Can’t Sleep, Love
- Demi Lovato – Confident
- Arcade Fire – Wake Up
- Hailee Steinfeld – Love Myself
- Sam Smith – Money On My Mind
- Esperanza Spalding – I Can’t Help It
- John Newman – Come and Get It
- Felix Jaehn – Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)
- Mark Ronson – Feel Right
- Clean Bandit – Rather Be
- Katrina & The Waves – Walking on Sunshine
- Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World
- MisterWives – Reflections
- Carly Rae Jepsen – Warm Blood
- I Love Memphis – Hit The Quan
9 To 5
Work music must be carefully chosen so as not to distract from your tasks and goals. For example, listening to music with lyrics isn’t often advised? The reason? Our brains are used to concentrating on words.
While you work, you should also turn down the volume and avoid playing too upbeat music. Music that is fast and loud has been found to decrease performance in one study.
So, what exactly should you listen to while working? Some suggestions would be classical music, video game soundtracks, or calming instrumental tracks. When you feel pressured to meet a deadline, though, you can listen to your “feel good” playlist.
You may also want to listen to nature sounds or good, old white noise. Another option would be using Focus@Will. After taking a quiz, it will give you music suggestions to help you stay focused.
The key is to find what works best for you. For example, lyrics may not bother you at all, while white noise may drive you crazy. Try a few different options and make adjustments as you go.
A Cup Of Coffee, A Sandwich And You
Restaurants worldwide have long recognized that jazz music has a significant influence on how we judge the taste of food. Studies have shown that eating while jazz music plays in the background increases the enjoyment of food, whether it’s the main course or the dessert. Jazz music also consistently increases appreciation of chocolate.
Gonna Make You Sweat
“Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort, and may even promote metabolic efficiency,” Ferris Jabr in Scientific American. “When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer, and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.” One of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, wrote in a review of the research in 2012 that music could be considered “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”
“Two of the most important qualities of workout music are tempo—or speed—and what psychologists call rhythm response, which is more or less how much a song makes you want to boogie,” adds Jabr. “Most people have an instinct to synchronize their movements and expressions with music—to nod their heads, tap their toes or break out in dance—even if they repress that instinct in many situations.”
Cultures and people react differently to music depending on what kind of instinct they have. Most workout playlists are filled with fast songs with strong beats, which are particularly stimulating. However, among 184 college students, hip-hop was the most popular exercise music (27.7 percent), followed by rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3%).
Feeling down after a tough day? Music can help you embrace the sadness and help you work through it. While it may sound counterproductive, scientists say that listening to sad music can help lift your spirits. Well, I’ve tried this numerous times and wouldn’t recommend this — but what do I know?
Of course, this is in no way a cure for a major depressive disorder. However, if you’re in a gloomy mood after an event, listening to sad music in your sacred space can help calm your spirits. With time, you may be able to come to terms with the situation.
Take Me Home, Country Roads
Believe it or not, you probably shouldn’t listen to”driving music” during your daily commute.
Studies have shown that upbeat and loud music is associated with speeding and a higher rate of collisions. This is most true among male teen drivers. This is because the reaction time of drivers is instantly enhanced by slow tunes that are in tune with the natural heartbeat, as opposed to energetic tunes.
So, the next time you’re behind the wheel, listen to music from acts like Norah Jones as opposed to Metallica. It’s an effective way to prevent you from getting distracted.
I’m Only Sleeping
In the study, those who listened to music around 45 minutes before bedtime had better sleep quality. Even more interesting was that this began on the first night in one study. Moreover, in another study, women with insomnia went to sleep more quickly after listening to their favorite music continuously for ten nights.
What is the best music to listen to at night? Despite the lack of studies in this area, some experts recommend choosing music with a BPM of 60-80. The reason being is that this corresponds with the body’s resting heart rate.
Music from the classical genre can also help you fall asleep. But, you might want to add some of the following songs to your nighttime playlist if classical music isn’t your cup of tea;
- Someone Like You by Adele
- Fix You by Coldplay
- I See Fire by Ed Sheeran
- Skinny Love by Birdy
Image credit: Marcelo Chagas; Pexels; Thank you!