It´s Sam here (from Smart Choice Student Support). I hope you’ve been keeping your study gratitudes! I know it can be hard to get into the habit of doing them, so here’s a positive study hack that’s much easier- it requires no real effort!
We all have those days don’t we? Those days where the thought of doing our homework makes us cry. We'll drag ourselves to our desks to then merely slug out half hour of page staring and then bury our foreheads into crusty bogey-ridden books.
As ever, I’ll reiterate that if we’re studying in a stressed, negative, or even NEUTRAL state then we’re not going to be performing at our optimum level. The second you choose to improve your mood, you will be choosing to study more productively and efficiently. A key way I managed to improve my mood EVERY time before I hit up the library was through music. What I want to share with you today is how you should strategically choose your tracks. I’ll detail how initially they can motivate and put you in a positive mood to study, but over time if the listening of certain tracks is habitualised, they actually automatically prime the brain to get ready for a world-class study performance.
Here’s a little scenario
James and Jane are twins and have the same IQ. They’ve both got the same 1,000-word essay on Shakespeare in for three days time. Both hate Shakespeare. Both decide to put on some tunes as they head to the library. James is listening to Justin Bieber “Sorry" and Jane is listening to Adele “Hello”.
Who are you going to back to write the better essay?
This sounds like I’m pointing and leading to the obvious but music and mood are inherently linked. If you listen to the Adele track you’re most likely going to drop to your knees and start crying about your ex, whereas is you listen to the Bieber track, you’ll want to knee-slide to your ex’s feet and woo them back with an on-point dance routine.
The point is, specific emotional responses can be instantly produced through listening to certain songs. We see this in almost every sport; motivational and spine-tingling tracks are used to elicit feelings of anticipation from the crowd and to plug athletes into their winning mindsets.
Music has been shown to have a self-fulfilling prophecy. Researchers from the Netherlands found that when experiment subjects where shown a ’neutral face’ they often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.
Music therefore has immense potential in changing our perception of reality. It can allow us to feel like anything is possible even when facing adversity. Just think, how many of you listen to music when exercising? You’re really struggling but then your favourite track at the moment pops on. What happens? You suddenly get this surge of energy and can somehow knock out another 10 reps or sprint for another 30 seconds. That’s the sheer power of music and I believe it’s got those same powerful effects on mental workouts too.
So with this belief I decided to design myself a playlist of songs that would plug me into the mindset that I was about to dominate in the library. But the great thing is that everyone is different and therefore different tunes elicit different emotional responses in people. The key is to get you in a POSITIVE state of mind, and this doesn’t have to strictly be an ultra-focused 'boxer on their way to the ring' type mindset. Tunes that make you feel cocky, confident, happy, relaxed, hopeful, delighted, energised, peaceful, excited, euphoric, or assured all have that same impact of ridding yourself of negative emotions and putting you in that positive state of mind. And it’s that positivity that will allow you to concentrate better, be more productive, and be intellectually on-point.
By simply pressing play on a song that elicits ANY positive emotion you will increase the release of dopamine, which will open up all the learning centres in your brain and allow you to retain information better.
As an added bonus what I came to realise over time was that the tunes on my pre-study playlist would almost instantly get me into a focused mindset, even if I was feeling tired, stressed, or a bit down. This suggested to me that classical conditioning had occurred (google Pavlov’s dog), whereby my tunes instantly made my brain salivate at the thought of putting in a a high-grade library sesh. So what I would suggest is finding tunes that you'll listen to only prior to studying.
And we all know how easily we can get bored of some songs so do constantly update your playlist!
Here are some of my favourite pre-study tracks:
- Jackson and His Computerband- Vista (Hudson Mohawke Remix)
- David Bowie- Heroes
- Thirty Seconds to Mars- Closer to the Edge
- Hall & Oates- Out of Touch
- Arctic Monkeys Brianstorm
- Chvrches- Recover
- Foals- Inhaler
- The Stone Roses- Breaking into Heaven
- The Smiths- This Charming Man
- Red Hot Chili Peppers- By the Way
You’ll see they’re all pretty different and would elicit different emotions- the important thing is they all make me feel positive in one way or another.
I’m sure you have better taste in music than me, so go out there and find your pre-study playlists, it’s such a fun and easy tip that everyone can benefit from :)
Other posts in this series of study-hacks: Success Through Smiles- Welcome to Positive Psychology!
The Pros of Progress Recording