As the pandemic drags on, are you finding it a little more difficult to summon your muse?
While some artists, writers, musicians, and other creative folks are using their socially distanced time to churn out new projects or try things they’ve not had time to attempt in the past, many others are struggling.
Stress and anxiety can have a real, tangible impact on the creative process and our ability to produce. Our brains are literally in “crisis mode,” making it more difficult to summon the higher processing ability needed to create, and the motivation to be productive and complete our work. Isolation and the sameness of our day-in-day-out quarantine routines can also make it harder to tap into inspiration and incite new ideas.
There’s good news, though: If you’re looking for ways to reignite your creative spark, the path to success could be through your ears.
What we hear every day can shape our mood, our behavior and our performance.
For example, the acoustic properties of our houses, offices, and public spaces can have a major impact on how comfortable we find them. Noisy environments have even been proven to annoy people, and can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Conversely, certain sounds and music can also be used to create specific changes in the mind and body. If you want to stimulate your creative brain and be more productive, too, consider trying one of these five audible tools to help nudge you out of your pandemic rut:
FOR: Depression, Anxiety, Improved Focus
Research shows that classical music can increase dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure, and oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” There is even evidence that music can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, taking you out of that “crisis mode” state and making you better able to focus on those higher thought processes we discussed earlier.
What’s more, Duke Cancer Institute found that classical music can also reduce anxiety physiologically: Men undergoing a stressful biopsy had no spike in diastolic blood pressure during the procedure and reported significantly less pain when they listened to Bach through headphones during their procedure.
But perhaps the biggest selling point? Classical music puts listeners in a “heightened emotional state,” making them more receptive to information. It literally lights up your brain. This makes classical music the perfect tool for creative concepting, brainstorming, writing, and design.
FOR: Improved Concentration and Reducing Distractions
Maybe overstimulation is your creative block. If so, consider tapping into repetitive, soothing sounds that can keep you focused on the task at hand, and keep you in your creative zone.
White noise masks distractions and creates a neutral sound environment. It can help you concentrate on your work by screening out disruptive noise, and is especially soothing for people with ADHD.
There are many types of white noise available — from ocean waves, to simulated city sounds, to true white noise, which consists of low-, medium-, and high-frequency sounds played together at the same intensity level. There are entire white noise playlists available on Spotify, as well as white noise apps and even sound machines. Experiment and see what works best for you!
Mario Kart Music (Yes, really!)
FOR: Concentration, Focus, Memory
Video game music is designed specifically to help you focus on a task, making it the perfect music for designing, writing, or performing repetitive tasks. It stimulates the senses while blending into the background. Rapid beats per minute subconsciously urge you to work faster and encourages productivity, while the repetitive musical patterns engage you in a task without distracting from it.
This tip emerged on TikTok in the fall of 2020, and has become very popular with GenZers to help them study and be productive. The music intentionally creates feelings of anxiety and urgency, which spurs you to get work done — and get it done quick. Listening for long periods of time can even elevate your heart rate! (That said, if you have anxiety… this might not be the tactic for you!)
FOR: Relaxation, Heightened Creativity, Anxiety Reduction, Focus
Binaural beats are subtle, surreal beats cocooned in relaxing music. Studies show they introduce a new frequency to your brain, and your brain waves feel compelled to sync to it – so, it quite literally puts you in a new state of mind. “Binaural” means “two ears” – this type of music often uses different sounds in each ear to further stimulate the brain.
Of course, not all binaural beats are the same: Different frequencies create different effects. Low-frequency delta and theta waves boost relaxation and improve sleep. Higher frequency gammas make you more alert, focused, or better able to recall memories. Binaural beats in the theta range (4 to 8 Hz) are linked to reduced anxiety, relaxation, and heightened creative states. Meanwhile, binaural beats in the alpha frequencies (8 to 13 Hz) encourage relaxation, promote positivity, and decrease anxiety.
FOR: Reduced Anxiety, Behavior Modification, Performance Enhancement
Guided meditation might not be the right choice to listen to while you work — but it can be a game-changer before you start a project or deliver a client presentation. In guided meditation, you are verbally guided by a narrator to create a specific change in your life. First, you’re encouraged to relax your body and mind into a deep meditative state, before going on a journey, in your mind, to reach a specific goal.
Studies show practicing something in your mind is almost as good as practicing it in real life. In fact, our brains can’t tell the difference between an imagined event and a real one, so guided meditation is just like having a real experience.
There’s a major body-mind connection here, too: Guided meditation can activate muscles, change your biological state, and even change the way the cells in your body work. If you’re struggling with a particular project, seeking a new creative avenue, or trying to tap into a new skill, this process can be therapeutic — and effective.
Have you tried any of the aural tools above to tap into your own creativity? What works well for you? Share your tips and favorite listening resources with us. Contact us!