Jan 13, 2020
Welcome to episode 20. This week, I want to share with you something I’ve been playing with that has really helped me. Last week I needed to be completely focused and very productive in order to complete the first essay for my Doctorate of Education, so I remembered something I’d heard about and tried successfully before.
A year or so ago, I watched an interesting TV show called Twinstitute, where twin doctors carried out some simple experiments on themselves and various twin volunteers. One of the experiments was about using classical music to aid concentration. Of course this was a TV show, so hardly super-scientific, but I was struck by how effective the participants found it and tried it for myself a few times. It worked! So this week, as I worked, I put on various bits of classical music from YouTube playists (these are easy to find - search for ‘classical music for studying’ or ‘classical music for concentration’). As on previous occasions, I found it really helped me focus on my work and be very efficient and productive - I worked extremely fast!
My youngest daughter, who has now gone back to Uni, came downstairs from her marathon pre-exam revision sessions (she is far more conscientious than her mother and always does this very thoroughly and methodically - no last-minute cramming for her!) and asked me about the music, so I told her about the TV show. The next day, I went into her room while she was revising and noticed classical music playing quietly on her laptop. I asked about it and she said “yes, it really works! I don’t understand it, but it works!”
So I’ve looked at some of the research on this. I got a little carried away! It is a fascinating topic with extensive literature on it, once you start looking! It would make this podcast episode far too long if I went into the research in detail, so I’ve written an article about this on LinkedIn, in case you want to delve deeper. But here are some key points:
There is still a need for more research in this area - isn’t there always? - but there seems to be something in this. One study(1) found that certain types of music can speed us up in carrying out tasks, while other music may slow us down. The researchers speculated that music may temporarily stop us from noticing the symptoms of tiredness. A medical study(2) examined the effects of relaxing music on patients before and after open heart surgery and found that it had a bigger impact on reducing anxiety than some of the drugs typically administered to patients for this purpose. It also significantly reduced the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. In the same paper, the researcher examined previous studies into various types of music and its impact on memory, concentration, anxiety and health. He found that music such as Mozart and Baroque music with typically around 60 beats per minute activates the left and right sides of the brain at the same time, increasing learning and our ability to retain information - I found this particularly interesting as this is the music I naturally gravitated to in order to work better! According to the author of the study, classical music, especially by Bach, Mozart and Italian composers, is particularly effective at increasing concentration, treating depression, anxiety, stress and pain, and helping people who have problems sleeping, or issues with their hearts and circulation. He also found this type of music supports a healthy immune system. He examined studies into other types of music and found that pop music and Latin-American music have positive effects on mood and motivation.
So, when your concentration or productivity flags, if you are feeling anxious or need a mood boost, or if your students have similar issues, it may be worth giving music a try.
I hope you’ve found this topic as fascinating as I did! Let me know how you get on with trying this out and, as always, until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!
Other interesting reading:
Lawrence, D.L., 2001. Using music in the classroom. Advanced Brain Technologies. Accessed on 11/01/20 at http://www.pastpapers.ie/sites/default/files/Using%20Music%20in%20the%20Classroom.pdf
Smith, C.A. and Morris, L.W., 1977. Differential effects of stimulative and sedative music on anxiety, concentration, and performance. Psychological Reports, 41(3_suppl), pp.1047-1053. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1977.41.3f.1047. Accessed on 11/01/20 at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c484/d4a0a11b313342248d08c088945debb08a73.pdf