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Workday Blues? Science Says Music Can Help Beat It

Some music to pair with your cup of coffee

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 14 Aug 2018

Workday Blues? Science Says Music Can Help Beat It

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It looks like someone has a case of the early week blues. You probably clicked the headline to find answers to fight that gloomy, overwhelming feeling that the workweek has started again (You still can’t get over the weekend party or maybe the cold weather just makes you want to get in bed again).

Worry no more. There’s something you can pair with your cup of coffee to boost your mood and productivity — the right music.

Research has shown that listening to music can make people more productive at work, such as this research from the University of Miami or this study from the doctors and researchers in Maryland and Pennsylvania. But we’re not looking into just any type of music. What we need is the right type of music for every situation, or else the music will not work in our favor.

Here’s what to listen to for those moments you just need a quick pick-me-up:

When learning new things

Learning requires the brain to remember and process new information. When in this situation at work, it is best to listen to music without lyrics because hearing words can encourage more processing and multitasking in the brain. Russ Poldrack, a Stanford neuroscientist, says learning information while multitasking can make the new information go to the wrong part of the brain, making retention hindered.

When you need to learn something, it is advisable to listen to productivity-inducing tunes like classical music. For instance, baroque music (as in the compositions of Bach and Vivaldi) has been said to improve workers’ mood and productivity, according to this study.

It’s the same case for ambient music we hear in spas or in video games. "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting," says Brian Eno, Music for Airsports creator.

When focusing

The same type of music mentioned above is also perfect for moments when we need extreme focus during tasks.

But here’s another tip. Pick a calming or feel-good song or instrumental music and then listen to it on loop.

Psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis expounds in her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, that listening to a certain piece of music on repeat improves focus. Listening to a song on loop tends to make the listeners dissolve into the song and prevents their minds from wandering.

When dealing with repetitive work

Create a playlist of your all-time favorite music. That will save you from those days when repetitive tasks are just inevitable.

“Various studies have indicated that, in general, people who listened to music while they worked on repetitive tasks performed faster and made fewer errors. These results occur because music you like triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which help you feel relaxed and happy and, therefore, focus better,” writes Inc. columnist Tom Popomaronis.

Feel free to experiment with different genres of music to know what works best for you. Knowing what music to listen to and when to listen to it given different kinds of work situations is key to beating workday blues.

Still feeling blue? Maybe you just don’t love your job as much as you used to, do you? That’s another story.


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