If you think about how music affects us—from pumping us up, to filling us with pleasure, to bringing tears to our eyes—it’s not hard to imagine that you can use music to amplify your life as it has a powerful effect on the brain and body.
Music can help energize our bodies, reduce fatigue, and increase our performance. For example, if we listen to music while exercising, our bodies pick up on the pace and flow of the music and start to mirror it. Music can even make a tough workout feel easier to complete. Studies show that endurance is increased when listening to music and that motivational music has an impact on stamina.
Music can also have an important effect on our brain. Listening to or studying music consistently remodels your brain and enables you to function at a higher level. MRI imaging has also shown that the pathways in your brain affected by music run from the cochlea in your ear, through the auditory nerve, and into the basal centres of your brain (the emotional centre of your brain).
Music has throughout time been an important and universal part of society. Stephen Koelsh published a literature review that documented the effects of music on individuals and groups and identified the following “seven Cs” of music. Music provides opportunities for:
1. Social contact with other human beings;
2. Dramatic increases in cognition (the function of your brain);
3. Co-pathy (empathy shared with others);
4. Communication (sharing lyrics and experiences);
5. More effective coordination (people are attuned to each other);
6. Enhanced cooperation (because shared experience); and
7. Greater cohesion among groups.
Listening to or playing music amplifies your brain, which means you can use music to amplify your life! Use music on your way to work to get ready for whatever lies ahead. Use music to transition to new activities, like the deep concentration required for a project or at the end of the day when you need to wind down. Align your music with your life and amazing things can happen.
This week’s challenge: Create soundtracks for your life
We can use music to help us get excited, energized, focused, relaxed, calm or joyful. This week, harness the power of music and make a handful of playlists that you can use at specific moments.
If you’re feeling tense and anxious, you might want to listen to a calming soundtrack to lower your heart rate and de-stress. If you need to get psyched up for a performance, such as an athletic event or a big presentation, maybe you need a soundtrack that will increase your level of activation. Maybe you have music that works well for when you need to enter into deep focused execution and other music that helps you to spark creativity.
Create as many life soundtracks as you like and put music to work for you!
What are we finding in the research?
Music has been shown to enhance endurance, sprint, and strength based exercise performance, however the degree to which it improves performance is debatable. In a recent review paper on this topic, Dr. Ballmann, a researcher from Samford University, suggests that music preference might explain the mixed results. Dr. Ballmann argues that music can improve exercise performance through physiological, psychological, and psychophysiological factors, but that this effect is mediated by musical preference. In other words, music is more likely to be an ergogenic aid when participants are allowed to select their own music.
So make your ultimate workout playlist to boost your performance and make it more enjoyable! 🙂
Greg Wells is the CEO and founder of Wells Performance, a global consulting firm on a mission to elevate how we live our lives at work and in life. He has worked with some of the highest-performing individuals on the planet, including Olympic and world champions and elite organizations including General Electric, BMO, Deloitte, KPMG, BMW, Audi, Sysco Foods, YPO and Air Canada. He is also committed to inspiring children and young adults, working with school boards and independent schools around the world.