I was leaving my daughter to school the other day and I saw one of the students (must be in class 10 or 11) listening to music with his sophisticated headphones right until he entered the school campus. It worried me and I was about to go and talk about it when I saw another one with the same setup enter the premises. What are these kids doing with their earphones when their focus should be on the forthcoming test at school or the day’s schedule at classroom? This is just not the only scenario but these days there are a greater number of people with their earphones hanging around their neck than those with a book or pen in hand. At offices too, I almost see every other person working on his/her system listening to any kind of music that suits his/her taste. Many individuals listen to music while driving a car, studying for a test, doing some work or even while reading a book! There are arguments cropping up that reading is a hobby, driving needs focus and studying needs all the concentration that’s possible to achieve better results. But strangely, these are the guys that reveal that listening to music helps focus better on the job at hand. Some even go beyond the threshold commenting that staying without listening to music is more distracting.
Relentless Source of Energy
We are never going to deny that music helps us stay afloat in times of distress, helps us stay in a positive frame of mind, kindles our emotional well-being, has a soothing effect on the ears and replenishes energy levels. At the gym, music makes workout less taxing on the body, soulful music helps a pregnant woman stay calm through her pregnancy term and even come through delivery in a less-stressed way and no party or get-together is complete without a dash of remixes, blasting sounds through speakers and peppy songs! Music does seem to play an important role in our everyday life despite a vague picture still existing in each of our minds on the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of the intense impact of music on our brains.
All said and done, what about those listening to music while preparing for an entrance exam, studying for their regular cycle tests or finishing upon a project with the deadline lingering even closer! This remains an open topic that brings in lots of speculations, controversial ideas and arguments! There have been numerous studies taking sides on the positives and negatives surrounding music’s impact on the brain and cognition. We’ve been told that music helps in lighting up multiple parts of the brain improving brain health, triggering memory enhancements, advancing spatial-temporal reasoning having a positive effect on creativity and clarity and a study from the University of Wales shows that music has a great effect on the attention span and memory but the effect varies greatly from person to person. Do you know what, hearing happy music (stimulating and peppy tunes) makes you sharpen your out-of-the-box thinking ideas or strategies.
Sadly, we do have studies published in authentic journals that probe into the effect of music on creative problem solving. Three studies were carried out and in each study, the teams were measured for each o the participants’ cognitive abilities. Each of the subjects were given three words (‘dress’, ‘dial’ and ‘flower’) and were asked to come up with a fourth word (‘sun’) that paired naturally with each of these (https://psmag.com/news/listening-to-music-impairs-creativity). There were 15 men and 15 women involved in the study who were assigned to tasks. They listened to a pop song and results showed that the participants performed better while working in silence. Another experiment featured participants solving problems either listening to positive songs or only ambient library noises. While the mood of the participants improved significantly their creativity did not experience any upraise.
Type of Music
The type of music that you listen to and the stage of creativity that you are currently in determine the effect of music on your body. If you are in the initial stages of creativity which involves designing an approach, looking at various solutions and picking out the right one, listening to music might not be your cup of tea at this stage. Whereas, if you are halfway through your task, stuck up somewhere and looking for something creative to work upon taking a break and listening to good music might help you come up with new ideas and solutions for your creative work. In such times, what type of music would encourage you to solve the problem at hand? Of course, it should not be too funky, loud, distracting or fast as this creates problems with focusing on the task. The music that you listen to must be soothing, slow, maybe classical, pleasant and familiar music. An instrument playing in the background helps you refresh your mind but the studies supporting that music induces creativity is indeed limited. While you might find it tricky or suffocating to focus on something for a prolonged period without much clues on how to proceed, the silence might also bring in a new perspective to your thoughts and actions.
The type of music you like depends on personal preferences. So, making an entire class of students listen to some instrument or classical music is not going to help you reap benefits. Research do show that music’s impact on brain creativity does vary from person to person. Choose the right type of music that brings out the best in you-if not for the creativity aspect at least to improve your mood and help you perform better.
Does Music Really Help You Concentrate? https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/aug/20/does-music-really-help-you-concentrate
Does Listening to Music Stimulate Creative Thinking. Or Stifle it? https://time.com/5626958/music-creative-thinking/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.