Anyone who has worked out while listening to music knows the true power of beats per minute. Among its many benefits and pleasures, music motivates!

Music and motivation: How it works

Music stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system — the system responsible for our fight or flight response — and readies us for action. Listening to music ups our heart rate, opens air passages, and increases the level of dopamine in our brains.

Increasing the volume and rhythm quickens our pulse. During a strenuous workout, our brains and bodies are in sync with the music, bringing together perceptual, cognitive, and motor processes. The result is improved focus and an enhanced ability to process information.

Music also has a powerful emotional impact. When we listen to an upbeat, happy song it can lighten our overall mood. The same is true for sad songs. This is because music has a strong connection to memory. For most of us, the music we grew up with is a touchstone triggering memories and connecting us to our generation. Music doesn’t just impact mood, though. Recent studies suggest that it may actually change our perception of the world

Benefits of music

  • Versatility. Different kinds of music can serve different functions. Music can motivate, but it can also relax and restore peace of mind. It can help us focus or allow our minds to wander. It can help us start our day in a good mood and help us go to sleep at night.
  • Improve endurance. By stimulating and energizing us, music can further our endurance and help us shake off boredom and fatigue.
  • Relieve pain. New studies suggest that the subjective nature of pain — the way we as individuals perceive it — may benefit from music therapy.
  • Helps us learn more about ourselves. Your musical preference says a lot about you. Studies find that the genre of music you listen to correlates with certain personality traits, like whether you’re outgoing, or more introverted. It can also indicate your level of self-esteem, creative ability, work ethic, and even temperament.

Music is embodied in the rhythmic beating of our hearts, the way we walk, and the way we breathe. There is still a question as to which came first — music or language.

In the late ’90s, parents began playing classical music to their unborn children, believing that it would both calm the child and encourage future creativity. And, while the so-called “Mozart effect” was ultimately dispelled, it speaks to the power we instinctively place in music. So the next time you’re having difficulty focusing or need some motivation to make it through the day, you may want to reach for those headphones.