“Can’t concentrate? Just take your headphones and put on some music!” You’ve probably heard this piece of advice multiple times – and you may have even given it yourself.
No matter whether you’re a student or not, everyone struggles with pulling themselves together to concentrate sometimes. But is there anything more to this solution than just anecdotal evidence? And how does music really help you find your focus?
How important is it to be able to focus, even? Yes, on the one hand, websites like WritePaper offer students paper writing service, and you can offload your homework to them. But you’ll still need to concentrate on preparing for that test or exam. So, let’s break down seven ways listening to music can help you do just that.
It Can Boost Your Memory
Yes, you’ve read this right: listening to music while trying to memorize some information can help you retain it better. And the research backs it up!
In one study, researchers tested knowledge retention in three groups of participants. One was listening to classical music while memorizing short lists of words. The other two were working either in silence or with white noise.
And guess what – the first group showed better results when recalling what words were on those lists!
Of course, those researchers were testing only one genre of music. The consensus is that instrumental music – classical or not – is less distracting and, therefore, more efficient than songs with prominent vocals.
It Stimulates Your Brain
When you’re listening to music, your brain practically lights up. A part of this brain activity happens where the cognitive functions reside. That leads researchers to think that you’re likely to perform better at cognitive tasks while listening to some tunes.
Let’s take a look at one study that corroborates this. During the experiment, participants were asked to match numbers and shapes. Those who were listening to classical music, once again, performed better than their counterparts working in silence or white noise.
So, the next time you put on your headphones, your brain will get that extra boost to help you comprehend and process information better. Just make sure the tracks aren’t too distracting!
It Can Improve Your Mood
Do you know the main reason why people listen to music? Multiple research teams have pondered this exact question. So, they put it to the test by collecting responses via surveys.
That answer is “to regulate their emotions.” And you’re likely to agree with it. Do you ever listen to particular tracks when you’re feeling down? Does that boost your mood? Most likely, the answer is “yes.”
What does this have to do with the ability to concentrate? Here are just there reasons why your mood matters when you try to focus:
- it enhances your ability to learn to make connections between various pieces of information;
- it boosts your creativity and flexibility, allowing you to be a better problem-solver, too;
- it improves your ability to classify things.
It Can Be Your Cue to Focus
Humans are great at developing conditioned reflexes. Unlike innate reflexes that you have no control over, conditioned reflexes can be purposefully self-taught.
Let’s break down what it means in practice. The human brain is great at recognizing patterns. So, you can teach it that when X happens, Y is going to happen, too. With time, it’ll learn that X means you need to provide an appropriate reaction to Y.
In the case of Pavlov and his dogs, the X was the sound of a metronome, and Y was the food being presented to the dogs. After several repetitions, dogs started to salivate in response to the sound, even if the food never came.
Similarly, you can teach your brain that when you start listening to a particular set of tracks, it’s study time. So, your brain will get the signal, “Now is the time to focus!” and automatically do exactly that.
It Blocks Out Distractions
The chances are you simply don’t have a quiet place to study or work. You probably go to a café or a common space – or you stay in your room that you (likely) share with a roommate. And even if you live alone, you might be hearing construction noises, cars honking, and people outside.
One way or another, there’s always a chance noise will impede your ability to concentrate. And this is where listening to music in your headphones comes in to save the day!
Great noise-canceling headphones are a must here, though. Without them, all the surrounding noise will still make its way to your ears. If that happens, it’ll be a cacophony of sounds that won’t let you focus.
It Can Help You Deal With Stress & Anxiety
You must’ve lived through some stress and anxiety in your life. So, you know it yourself: it’s tough to pull yourself together and focus on doing something when your thoughts are racing in your mind. And students have many things to worry about: tests, exams, scholarships, you name it.
If you’re stressed out and can’t concentrate because of that, listening to music can help you get your anxiety under control faster. For example, one study showed that listening to some tracks for an hour helped people feel more relaxed after having suffered a stroke.
Another study took it a step further. Researchers measured the physiological responses to stress in two cases. One group listened to music before a stressful event, the other one – after it. The first group didn’t see an improvement in stress levels, but the second one got relaxed faster than without any tunes.
It Can Increase Your Motivation
Typically, when you read about the motivation, it’s all about a bunch of self-reflecting questions and fostering discipline. But while those are great, they aren’t the only ways to motivate yourself to focus on the task at hand.
The thing is, listening to music lights up the reward center of the human brain. This reward center is called this way for a reason. When you do something pleasant, it gives the command to release dopamine and serotonin, boosting your mood, motivation, and focus.
Some people will suggest you use rewards to boost your motivation. But you have to wait until you can get to them. Music, in its turn, can do the same job as rewarding yourself with an episode of your favorite TV show. But you can take advantage of that extra dopamine and serotonin while working or studying.
Final Thoughts: Find Your Playlist
Not all music is equally helpful when it comes to concentration. At the moment, the consensus is that instrumental music is the best genre to get you all of the perks described above. In other words, it’s better to avoid any songs with lyrics.
Here are three more tips on how to make the most out of your playlist.
- If you stream, make sure ads won’t break your concentration.
- Keep the volume low to avoid the music drowning out your thoughts.
- Stick to the tracks you know well to avoid getting distracted or taken aback.
At the end of the day, however, it all depends on you and your preferences. Think about the tracks that put you “in the zone” most of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s Queen, AC/DC, or Mozart – if it works for you, then keep listening to that playlist!
Just remember to make a separate playlist for when you need to focus. This way, the tracks that will be counterproductive won’t find their way there.