Music is hailed a triumph of human creativity and is almost inescapable. It has been around for hundreds of years and still to this day, greets us around every corner in almost any establishment or environment you can think of. It teaches us our ABCs, about love, loss and countless other life lessons. In fact, many people claim to not be able to live without it. I am one of those people – I love music – it starts and ends most of my days and is an essential part of my daily commutes. More often than not, you will find me plugged in and channelling my inner Beyoncé.
As it happens, I find myself listening to a lot more music when I need to pick myself up during times of stress or when I’m having a particularly bad day. There’s a good chance you do, too – music has a renowned ability to promote peace and introspection, and its transformative effects on the human psyche are widely studied. Psychologists, sociologists and even ancient philosophers have long hypothesised that music can change lives, and today, there is much scientific research to support this and prove that music affects our brains both cognitively and neurologically.
Some of the most notable and studied effects of music on us include increased confidence, productivity, accuracy and creativity, as well as reduced levels of illness, stress and reduced openness to distraction. Music, as an inward symbol of peace, has also been associated with relieving patients of depression and acting as a consolation tool for the grieving. In all, it seems music can make us feel better in an undeniably, positive way.
When we feel better, we do better. The sentiment of being successful may differ per person and situation, but definitively, it is to achieve a desired aim. Published research shows that participants who listened to music before taking measures to achieve their goals, e.g. before an interview, or before a driving test, had significantly higher success rates than their counterparts. Whether or not they felt like they could achieve their goals easily, they benefitted from extra confidence, calmness or a better mood, furthering the idea that music acts as a form of psychological armour.
The most effective or engaging music is that which imposes emphatic statements and transpires confidence, empowerment and motivation. This impact on us is complex and comes about with certain lyrics, tempos, bass beats and keys. When we hear a song, particularly a favourite, it prompts a response from all four lobes of our brains, touching on our creativity, development, and pleasure, intertwining with our emotional centres. It is this intricate neurological interaction which generates a deep and unique response in us, creating real feelings which we want to act upon. It is something very few artforms can rival.
Interestingly, as a product of music’s emotional influence on us, our social interactions also change. As shown in further research, the increased confidence and creativity, as well as lessened anxiety from listening to music, leads to higher self-esteem, better interactions with peers and more proficiency in expressing yourself. In today’s workforce and anticipated in the future of work, there is a growing emphasis on interpersonal skills and engagement. This would suggest that listening to confidence-boosting music, for example, could aid you in better handling social situations and in the long term, make you more successful.
Different music inspires different people but altogether, I’d say the theory stands tall – that listening to music has the power to unlock success through eliciting bursts of certain feelings on demand. This can be in and out of the workplace – a thought-provoking study by TotalJobs (In collaboration with Dr Anneli Haake, 2016) found that 79% of employees who listened to music whilst working, had better rates of productivity.
Perhaps with Spotify revealing their highest ever subscription levels earlier this year, we may be living in a harmoniously successful utopia before we know it…