If you’ve ever cranked up the volume to kick start your weekend house cleaning, you know a bit about how music can change your mood, energy level and motivation. But do you know scientifically how music affects us? And did you know studying while listening to music comes with a host of benefits?
Abundant evidence suggests that music has a powerful impact on our physiological states, emotions, and thought processes. If you’re a student, this is important to note. Music can truly be a lifesaver when it comes to getting through the emotional highs and lows, and the energy ebbs and flows that accompany educational pursuits.
So what’s the best music to listen to while studying? There’s not a simple answer, as not all music has the same effect. Think of it as a supplement; just as different vitamins serve different functions, different musical elements can help us in different ways. Here’s a quick guide to how music can help you function effectively throughout your course of study.
Memory and Learning
Perhaps you’ve heard of what has popularly been coined the Mozart Effect—the idea that listening to Mozart or other classical music enhances mental function. This has been the subject of heavy debate, and the research surrounding it has been seriously misinterpreted in some cases. Nevertheless, there is something to it. While listening to Mozart won’t make you an instant genius, there is evidence that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable—be it Mozart or Madonna—can aid memory performance and concentration while studying.
Energy and Motivation
Need a quick pick-me-up before a marathon writing session? A stimulating song or two can boost your drive to tackle the drudgery that awaits. How? Music engages the body’s autonomic nervous system—which in basic terms means that at some level, music can control our physiological functions and emotions. The right music can serve as a fantastic stimulant that will quicken the pulse, accelerate breathing, draw away attention from fatigue and boredom, and pretty much pump you up for some serious intellectual heavy lifting.
If there’s one feeling that’s universal among students of any subject, it’s stress. Thankfully, music has been shown to be a substance-free way to diminish feelings of anxiety, anger and arousal that are the result of stressful tasks (i.e. everything students do). Style of music does matter if you wish to experience these benefits, but you still have some broad options from which to choose. Both classical music and “self-selected” relaxing music—in other words, any style that an individual considers personally soothing—have been shown to quickly calm the body and elicit more positive emotional states. So if Beethoven doesn’t float your boat, you can always “Sail Away” with Enya, or just scour your library for something you deem to be the appropriate soundtrack for a half hour of vegetating on the couch.
Do you find studying while listening to music to be helpful? Anecdotally speaking, it can be more beneficial for some than others. But it’s an idea worth exploring when you feel like you could use a little academic performance enhancement.
Tell us what you think, and share your favorite studying playlists with our readers!