Music has a direct line to your emotions. Who needs heroin or cocaine when you can just take it in the ears? As impactful as any drug, music can have an immediate effect on how you feel.
In an instant, the right song can trigger emotions that either energize or depress you. Tranquil instrumental music helps me write, while hip-hop gets me hyped to hit the gym. In this article, you’re going to learn how music can help you push through adversity, recuperate from stress, and be more productive.
Music Soothes Anxiety
Music is patterns, rhythmic patterns to be exact. When you successfully anticipate what you’ll hear next, your brain feels like a know-it-all about the future. It thinks to itself, “Hey, if I know what’s coming up, there’s no reason to feel anxious.”
Have you ever wondered why children’s music and nursery rhymes are like crack to kids, while most adults can stand them? The patterns in the music are too easy for adults to predict, so they get bored. Their brains are yawning. Kids, on the other hand, love nursery rhymes because they get a kick out of figuring out what comes next.
Picking the Right Music is Key
How are You Feeling Right Now?
Music can take you wherever you want to go as long as you know where you’re starting. It’s a “point A” to “point B” kind of thing.
SAD to HAPPY
HAPPY to SAD
HYPHY to CHILL
CHILL to HYPHY
You have to be in tune with how you’re feeling, and when you are, music can be a powerful tool.
The Right Music for the Right Occasion
What type of music do you listen to when you’re trying to fall asleep? To go from pumped-up to chilled-out, you should be playing a song that’s mellow, slow, and soothing. Want to take it all the way to dreamland? Keep it calm and instrumental. Lyrics make your brain feel like someone’s trying to get your attention.
Fast-tempo instrumental music is best for crushing work and staying on the productivity train. The fast pace takes you from relaxed to energized. Once again, lyrics can be distracting. When I’m trying to write, I don’t listen to the same rap music that pumps me up for a game of basketball. Those two activities require different mindsets for me to perform well.
When I write, I listen to high bpm (beats-per-minute) EDM music (instrumental of course). It gets me energized without disturbing my focus.
Reduce Mental Friction
Ask yourself how you feel when you’re doing your best work. Are your thoughts flowing freely or are you distracted and stifled? Doing quality work is about reducing mental friction. Get the junk out of the way, the worrying about the outcome, the distractions, and you’ll have an easier time getting in the flow.
Make a List
Create a list of music that you can use in different situations. Remember, the same type of music that gets you in the zone when you’re happy won’t necessarily work when you’re feeling depressed. Make four categories.
LOW-energy to HIGH-energy
HIGH-energy to LOW-energy
SAD TO HAPPY
HAPPY TO HAPPIER
Fill each category with ten artists and then make four separate playlists with your favorite songs. The next time you need inspiration, they’ll be waiting in the wings, ready to go.
If you’re the kind of person whose mood changes throughout the day, your list will have a wider variety of musical styles and emotional tones. Finding what works for you is a process of trial and error.
Want to maximize the effect music has on you?
Move! Dancing happens when you let your body respond to the rhythm of the song without your brain getting in the way. I find that when I can’t get my creative juices flowing, I can break through that early mental resistance by letting my body loose first. Hollywood director Roberto Rodriguez was interviewed on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast a couple of years ago. On the topic of creative flow, he said that his primary job when directing is to help the actors “get out of their own way.” According to Rodriguez, creativity is something that flows through you rather than comes from you. (If you end up listening to the podcast episode, he discusses creativity from [14:31] to [21:41].
To be productive, you have to clear the way for the magic to happen. Dancing can be as simple as tapping your feet and bobbing your head. You don’t have to full-out bust-a-move to break-a-leg, but don’t sell yourself short either. The music can only transform you as much as you let it.
So let it! Before I started making playlists for different occasions, I usually ended up not even playing music. Whenever I was pressed for time, it was too hard to pull myself away from the task at hand to decide what to play. When I would finally pick something, half the time the music would annoy me by distracting and slowing me down. Now, I have my hand-dandy playlists ready to rock, and kicking it into high gear is as easy as pressing play.