Derek Beres

The Right Music for Every Part of Your Day

Why do sad songs comfort us? There is, in fact, a chemical reason. When you hear music in a minor key -- the notes that make a song sad -- your brain releases the hormone prolactin, found in mother's milk. This same hormone that comforts babies when nursing also soothes our adult minds when we hear melancholy music.

There are other ways that music affects our brains. In fact, the right music can change your emotions, your day and your outlook on life. Marketers know this, and stores play certain tunes that make us buy more stuff. Restaurants that want to pack in more customers use other types of music to rush you along. Here's how you can use music to your advantage at every point of the day.

Morning: Wake up to soft music.

Studies have shown that the first noise you hear in the morning influences your mood, alertness, behavior and energy level. When I first discovered this, I changed my alarm ring from an upbeat reggae song, which basically made me jump awake each morning, to Persian classical music.

Classical music, in fact, is some of the best ear candy medicine. You just don't want anything too soft, as you may sleep through it. The song I now use features a santir, a Persian dulcimer that cascades in to raise me to consciousness.

Likewise, a blaring, beeping industrial alarm sound is probably not the best choice. There's no reason to be shocked awake, knowing that how you wake up helps define your day.

Midday: Boost your energy with a strong beat.

When music has a strong beat, it activates the part of your brain that controls movement. If you're feeling lethargic or depressed, there's nothing like a solid beat. Pretty much any form of movement is a strong antidote to sadness or anxiety.

So if you put on a track with a fast rhythm of 120 beats per minute (e.g., "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas), it's hard not to, at the very least, tap your foot or shake your hips. You can apply this principle to a full-on workout.

For a list of 50 songs with 120 beats per minute, click here. If you want a quick way to figure out how many beats per minute are in your favorite tunes, click here.

Afternoon: Tune down stress with pleasant music.

When musical notes form a coherent structure, as in a symphony, your brain begins acting in a more coherent manner as well. Likewise, when you have to deal with disorganized noise -- traffic, a screaming baby -- your brain creates a stress response akin to the infamous fight-or-flight syndrome that kicks in when we're threatened by danger. These incoherent sounds also cause your blood pressure to rise and promote shallow breathing, which will never help calm you down. If you're faced with such circumstances, try to put on pleasant music. It will help your brain release dopamine, a pleasure chemical that counteracts stress.

All Day: Hum away.

Researchers have found that humming on a daily basis creates vibrations in our sinus and naval cavities. This enhances blood flow and air circulation, as well as produces nitric oxide, which slows bacteria growth and infections. In fact, Swedish researchers found that people who hum boost their nitric oxide levels 15 times higher than those who simply breathe deeply.






Health - The Right Music for Every Part of Your Day