Using Music to Improve Your Creative Productivity

For creative types, finding inspiration and remaining productive isn’t always that easy. Sometimes it becomes necessary to find different ways to keep the creative juices flowing. Have you ever tried using music to improve your creative productivity?

The Effects of Music on Creative Output

Scientific studies suggest that music has the ability to change moods, and thus potentially enhance creative output. A 2017 study conducted by Simone M. Ritter of the Behavioural Science Institute at Radboud University in Holland, and Sam Ferguson of the Creativity and Cognition Studios at the University of Technology in Australia, showed that listening to “happy” music facilitated divergent thinking, a major element in creativity.

During the study, 155 participants were subjected to “four classical music excerpts systematically varying on valance and arousal” while simultaneously carrying out creativity exercises. Those who had “happy” background music playing scored significantly better in divergent thinking (which governs creativity) than those who conducted their exercises in silence or while being subjected to other musical excerpts.

The conclusions drawn were that “music listening may be useful to promote creative thinking in inexpensive and efficient ways in various scientific, educational and organisational settings when creative thinking is needed.”

Music’s Effect on Productivity

Although numerous studies have attempted to prove how music affects productivity, there are no set patterns in their findings. Many contradict others on certain points, but underlying conclusions point towards music generally having a positive effect on productivity. The type of music used in testing, and how subjects’ brains react to different styles, volumes, beats, melodies and rhythms have led testers to draw the above conclusion.

Classical music tends to be the genre of choice in both workplace and study environments. The classics have a reputation for stimulating creative processes and enhancing productivity. Some parties, however, maintain that natural sounds, such as waves crashing, assist more with this than music  does.

How Music Affects the Brain?

There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does. If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the ag(e)ing process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

John Hopkins Medicine

Considering productivity improves with the factors mentioned in the above quote, it stands to reason that listening to music affects the brain in ways that will improve productivity.

But how does music actually physically affect the brain?

Music produces “feel-good” chemicals called Endorphins which are linked with motivation and help to reduce stress and pain. A neurotransmitter called Dopamine is also produced, which is linked with feelings of pleasure, motivation and reward. Playing music which you enjoy stimulates the Nucleus Accumbens core. This core is responsible for encoding new motor programs which can then be stored in the Basal Ganglia.

With the production of Endorphins and Dopamine, motivation increases and this can convert to higher levels of creativity. Playing suitable music at reasonable volumes stimulates the brain while also relieving stress. There is no set rule, but certain musical genres tend to do this better than others, depending entirely on the person listening.

A younger person might find inspiration by listening to Ariana Grande, for example, whereas this music might stress a pensioner out more than before. Conversely, classical music or the songs of Elton John may result in reverse reactions from the same age groups mentioned. Experimenting with different genres, volumes and tempos can help to identify something that decreases stress levels and improves creative productivity.

In Conclusion

Listening to the right type of music can improve your creative productivity, whilst also maintaining and growing your inspiration. A little initial experimentation may be needed to find out what works for you, so start building those playlists.

Header image courtesy of SEO Clerks.

My original article can be found at ContentBot.

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