Music and Studying: It’s Complicated
Music can motivate you, improve your mood, and help you relax. It can even help you focus so you can study or work. But different types of music can have different effects.
Many people find music helps them concentrate while studying and working. Others find it hard to focus with any background noise at all.
Music offers a lot of benefits, including:
But not everyone agrees that music improves a study session. So what’s the deal — does it help or not?
Music doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, so the answer is not just a straightforward “yes” or “no.”
Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of studying with music and get some tips for making the most out of your study playlist.
It would be fantastic if you could put on a playlist or song that could help you knock out a problem set or memorize all those dates for your history final, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, music isn’t quite that powerful. It mostly helps in indirect ways, but those benefits can still make a big difference.It reduces stress and improves your mood
Music doesn’t just motivate you. It can also help reduce stress and promote a more positive mindset.
In a 2013 study, 60 female volunteers carried out a psychological stress test while listening to relaxing music, sounds of rippling water, or no particular sound. Results suggested that listening to relaxing music makes a physical difference to the way people respond psychologically and physically — in terms of hormone response — under stress. However, the picture is complex, and more studies are needed.
In a 2021 study, patients in ICU said they felt less pain and anxiety after listening to music for 30 minutes than before.
Research suggests that a good mood generally improves your learning outcomes. You’ll likely have more success with studying and learning new material when you’re feeling good.
Studying can be stressful, especially when you don’t entirely understand the subject material. If you feel overwhelmed or upset, putting on some music can help you relax and work more effectively.It can motivate you
If you’ve ever grappled with a long, exhausting night of homework, your resolve to keep studying may have started to flag long before you finished.
Perhaps you promised yourself a reward in order to get through the study session, such as the latest episode of a show you like or your favorite takeout meal.
Research from 2019 suggests music can activate the same reward centers in your brain as other things you enjoy. Rewarding yourself with your favorite music can provide the motivation you need to learn new information.
If you prefer music that doesn’t work well for studying (more on that below), listening to your favorite songs during study breaks could motivate you to study harder.It can increase focus
According to a 2007 study, music — classical music, specifically — can help your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily.
Your brain processes the abundance of information it receives from the world around you by separating it into smaller segments.
The researchers found evidence to suggest that music can engage your brain in such a way that it trains it to pay better attention to events and make predictions about what might happen.
How does this help you study? Well, if you struggle to make sense of new material, listening to music could make this process easier.
You can also link the ability to make better predictions about events to reasoning skills.
Improved reasoning abilities won’t help you pull answers out of thin air come exam time. But you could notice a difference in your ability to reason your way to these answers based on the information you do have.
Other research also supports music as a possible method of improving focus.
In a 2011 study of 41 boys diagnosed with ADHD, background music distracted some of the boys, but it appeared to lead to better performance in the classroom for others.It could help you memorize new information
According to a 2014 study, listening to classical music seemed to help older adults perform better on memory and processing tasks.
These findings suggest certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions.
Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body.
The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become, right? Giving your brain a cognitive workout could help strengthen it in a similar fashion.
Not everyone finds music helpful for tasks that require concentration.It can distract you
An important part of music’s impact lies in its power to distract.
When you feel sad or stressed, distracting yourself with your favorite tunes can help lift your spirits.
But distraction probably isn’t what you’re looking for when you need to hit the books.
If you’re trying to argue your position in a term paper or solve a difficult calculus equation, music that’s too loud or fast might just interrupt your thoughts and hinder your process.It can have a negative impact on working memory
Working memory refers to the information you use for problem-solving, learning, and other cognitive tasks.
You use working memory when trying to remember:
Most people can work with a few pieces of information at a time. A high working memory capacity means you can handle more material.
Research suggests, however, that listening to music can reduce working memory capacity.
If you already have a hard time manipulating multiple pieces of information, listening to music could make this process even more challenging.It can lower reading comprehension
Certain types of music — including music with lyrics and instrumental music that is fast and loud — can make it harder to understand and absorb reading material.
Whether you’re looking at an evening of Victorian literature or some one-on-one time with your biology textbook, soft classical music with a slow tempo may be a better choice.
Listening to music while you study or work doesn’t always make you less productive or efficient.
If you prefer to study with music, there’s no need to give it up. Keeping these tips in mind can help you find the most helpful music for work and study:
Some research suggests that music can help reduce stress during an academic task and that it may help with memory and processing during tasks that require thinking. However, this may depend on the type of music and the individual.What type of music is good to study with?
The best type will depend on the individual. There is evidence that classical symphonies or relaxing music are a good choice for managing stress, but also that upbeat music might boost a person’s thinking processes. Instrumental music may be more suitable than songs with lyrics, as the lyrics can be distracting.When is it bad to listen to music while studying?
Each person can decide if it suits them to listen to music while studying or not and which type of music is best. Types of music that may not be helpful include songs, fast and loud music, and music that provokes strong feelings in the listener.
Music can improve your mood and help you feel more motivated to tackle important tasks, but it doesn’t always work as a study tool.
Even people who love music might find it less than helpful when trying to concentrate.
Choosing music carefully can help you maximize its benefits, but if you still struggle to focus, it may help to consider white noise or other audio options instead.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.
How Crying Can Help You, Here Is What A Study SaysGetty
They say that there's no sense in crying over spilled milk. But what do they know? Crying can get you another glass of milk if you do it loud enough. Plus, crying may serve a real physiologic purpose, according to a study published recently in Emotion, meaning the journal and not in an Emo-kind of way.
For the study, three researchers from the University of Queensland (Leah S. Sharman, Genevieve A. Dingle, and Eric J. Vanman) and one from Tilberg University (Ad J. J. M. Vingerhoets) recruited 197 female undergraduate students. They said that they choose all women rather than including men because pilot testing of sad videos had revealed that more women than men cried or at least more women revealed that they were crying. This did not account for the men who cried inside or used some bro-language or high fives to hide the crying.
The research team then showed each of the study participants either a video that are supposed to make them feel sad (sad videos) or a video that was not supposed to elicit any emotion (neutral videos) like something from a documentary or a ted talk. Each video lasted for close to 18 minutes. After the video, the researchers noted whether or not each participant had cried while watching the video. Ultimately, 65 participants watched the neutral video, 71 watched the sad video and cried during it, and 61 watched the sad video and did not cry. Presumably, no one cried during the neutral video. But then again, actor Bryce Dallas Howard was able to cry when Conan O'Brien talked about Home Depot in this Conan clip:
Then, each participant underwent a Cold Pressor Stress Test (CPT), which involved placing the participant's left hand, up to the wrist, in cold 0° to 5°C water. Unless you are the Iceman or Killer Frost, this is supposed to be painful. The research team measured how long each participant could stay in this position until pulling her hand out of the water. During the study, the research team continuously measured each participant's heart rate and respiratory rate and periodically measured cortisol levels from saliva samples. Cortisol is a stress-hormone that's produced by the body.
Also, at four points during the study, participants answered questions from the Positive and Negative Affect Scale short form (PANAS). These questions asked the degree to which the participant was experiencing ten different emotions and to rank each on a five-point scale that ranged from a one (very slightly or not at all) to a five (extremely).
When it came to cortisol levels and how long the participants could keep their hands submerged in the cold water, the study ended up finding not much difference between the neutral video watchers, the sad video non-criers, and the sad video criers. So if you are about to dunk yourself in cold water or take a cold shower, it may not help to cry first.
But here's a difference that the study found. Are you ready? Take a deep breath. The difference was breathing rates. While watching the videos, the non-criers tended to have elevations in their breathing rates, whereas, by contrast, the criers tended to maintain their initial breathing rates. In other words, tearing up could have helped participants better control their breathing rates. This provides further evidence that crying may help you better regulate arousal, serving as an emotional release.
Another interesting finding was that right before crying, participants tended to experience decreases in their heart rates, seemingly in anticipation of the crying. Once the crying began, their heart rates then tended to creep back up but not above where their heart rates had been before everything began. This may be further evidence that crying has a beneficial regulatory effect on your physiology.
So perhaps next time you start crying you can tell people that you are regulating your physiology. You've probably heard of people saying that they had a good cry and feel better after they've let the tears flow. It can be important to find reasonable ways to periodically release your emotions. Otherwise, you may end up bottling everything up like a hot air balloon that can explode when you least expect it.
Moreover, crying can be a way of communicating. It's really the only way that babies can express their needs before they learn how to say things like "why you throwing shade on me," or "I'm not Gucci." Crying can help communicate to others that you need more sympathy, comfort, or help. Of course, this can be misused. You don't want to cry every time your order at a restaurant doesn't come out right. And of course, there is the whole concept of crocodile tears: people crying to get something when they don't really mean it.
Crying can also be a way of communicating with yourself. Even when you cry alone, you may be telling yourself about your own state because, like many people, you could be terrible at reading your own emotions and situation. Tears could be your body's way of saying, "hey, take a break," or "something's not right," or "take care of yourself." Tearing up can then be a way of your body literally crying out to you.
Your body is a complex system. Crying can be complex. Your tears can flow when you are very sad, very angry, or even very happy. Better understanding what causes us to cry and what happens as a result could help us better handle our emotions and stress.
People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from exercising in the afternoon, study shows
People with type 2 diabetes should exercise in the afternoon instead of the morning to manage their blood sugar, a new study has found.
“In this study, we (have) shown that adults with type 2 diabetes had the greatest improvement in glucose control when they were most active in the afternoon,” co-corresponding author Dr. Jingyi Qian, from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Massachusetts’ Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a statement.
“We’ve known that physical activity is beneficial, but what our study adds is a new understanding that timing of activity may be important too,” Qian added.
READ THIS: Prediabetes: The younger you are, the higher the risk of dementia
A team of researchers from Brigham and Joslin Diabetes Center studied data from more than 2,400 people who were overweight and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and were wearing a waist accelerometry recording device – something that measures vibration or acceleration of motion – to measure their physical activity.
After reviewing data from the first year of the study, researchers found that those who did “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity in the afternoon had the greatest reduction in blood glucose levels.
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, examples of “moderate” activity include brisk walking, mowing the lawn with a power mower and playing badminton recreationally, while “vigorous” activity includes hiking, fast jogging, a basketball or soccer game or cycling at 14-16 miles per hour.
You can tell if you are exercising at a moderate aerobic level if you’re able to talk but not sing your favorite song, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When looking at data from the fourth year of the study, the team found that those who exercised in the afternoon maintained a reduction in blood glucose levels, and had the highest chance of being able to stop taking glucose-lowering diabetes medication.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, and occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, or doesn’t make enough insulin, according to the World Health Organization.
Mostly found in adults, it is associated with older age, obesity, family history, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity.
People with diabetes are at risk of complications including nerve damage, vision and hearing problems, kidney disease, heart disease and premature death.
The study’s authors note that the observational study does come with limitations, as it didn’t measure sleep or diet.
“Timing does seem to matter,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Roeland Middelbeek, assistant investigator at Joslin Diabetes Center. “Going forward, we may have more data and experimental evidence for patients to give more personalized recommendations.”
Dr. Lucy Chambers, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, said of the study: “Keeping physically active can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of developing serious diabetes-related complications such as heart disease and kidney failure, as well as improving their overall wellbeing.
Chambers, who was not involved with the study, emphasized the need for people to exercise where they can.
“This new research found that regular ‘moderate-to-vigorous’ physical activity – whether in the morning, midday, afternoon or evening – was associated with lower average blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Afternoon exercise was linked with the greatest benefits but the reasons for this are unclear and current evidence on optimal times for exercising is mixed.
“If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, the most important thing is to find an exercise you enjoy and that you can incorporate into your routine in the long-term – whether it’s before work, on your lunch break, or in the evening,” she added.
The team’s findings are published in the journal Diabetes Care.
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