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Our emotions are often linked with our surroundings, whether it be the music we listen to, our favorite TV show's theme song or just a line of melody. This emotionally driven mindset sometimes makes it difficult for us to remember that even if we hear the same melody, we might feel a different way about it.
Music is said to stimulate the production of mood-regulating chemicals, that our brain creates, such as dopamine which can heighten positive emotions and serotonin, reduces stress. But music also has negative effects such as an increase in sadness. We might also become absorbed in our music, and we cannot concentrate on anything else.
We might not be aware of how deeply music affects our mood. And yet, it has a profound impact: regularly listening to music can actually change the way our brain responds to stressful situations. Hearing the right music can help ease anxiety, start the healing process and even bring back memories of happier times.
Music has always been a popular way to control mood and alter consciousness. Since ancient times, people have used songs and chants to put themselves in a positive or negative mindset. These techniques are often referred to as "mantras" and in many religions, such as Buddhism, "The chant of life." Music also has a way of distracting us from the pains of life and can even block out unpleasant memories.
In the last few decades, neuroscientists have attempted to explain why this is. They have concluded, that music affects the way our brains interpret and organize information by activating certain sections of the brain. This in turn causes the body to react a certain way. So in a way, music can create an experience for the body, that the mind then interprets and values as important.
Music is said to shape a person's worldview. It can either make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, or it can make us feel isolated and alone. But no matter how it makes us feel, music has the power to move us. That's why it is important to find the right songs for ourselves.
Music is said to have a direct impact on our abilities to learn and remember. In fact, it is a common theme in many of the greatest creative minds of all time. The relationship between music and memory has been well-researched by cognitive psychologists.
The results of their work indicate, that both the emotional and physical aspects of music can have a profound effect on the formation of long-term memories. While some of these effects are good, such as the creation of emotional states and a focus on the present, others are troubling such as an increase in general laziness or low-quality thinking. It seems, that the effects of music are more intertwined and difficult to tease apart, than the other major influence on our thought patterns: the brain itself.
Although most of this research is on the effects of classical music, the effects of other forms of music cannot be ruled out. There is also evidence that suggests, that the effects of music differ across individuals. It is possible that a person can have a heightened state of awareness or even "see" a particular memory due to the influence of music, but they might not be able to recognize, that same influence applied to a different situation.
Music has a way of entraining us into its rhythms. We begin moving to its beat, whether we intend to or not. This is called "musical rhythm", and the reason many people find it so difficult to stop dancing when the music stops. This can be a very positive or a very negative thing depending on the situation.
In a similar way, it is possible for a song to convey a sense of movement or even provide a "map" to follow, so to speak. This is called a "mood" and the songs themselves can either create a mood or be an indicator of one. These moods can then be carried over into other situations and influence our behavior. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to consider.
The structure and the mood of a song will not only determine what memories it encodes into our mind, but also what conclusions we come to once we have escaped the song's influence. For instance, if a song expresses a certain feeling of hopelessness, then once it has been processed and understood, we will be more likely to find ourselves in hopeless situations.
These conclusions can be considered a by-product of the information the song provides and are not necessarily determined by the song itself. This is where the distinction between "mood" and "theme" becomes important. A song can have any number of moods and still convey information. For instance, while a song expressing hopelessness might make us more likely to act in a hopeless manner, a song expressing joy might make us more likely to behave in an optimistic way.
It is also important to consider the "mood" of the person who is hearing the song. A sad song will convey a different message depending on whether it is being processed by a sad individual or a hopeful one.
These conclusions are useful to consider, but also to be aware of.
Many of the conclusions, that we come to depend on are drawn from scientific studies, that focus on the role of music in our day-to-day lives. This means that music is a powerful tool for psychologists, sociologists and neurologists, among others.
The influence of music is felt in many ways by the people that surround us. Since we are social beings, our personalities are shaped by the interactions, that we have with others. These interactions are not merely emotional, but the entire exchange of information and feedback that occurs between two individuals.
Our brains are hardwired to record this information, and music happens to be the most efficient way to encode and transmit this data. This is why the role of music in our lives is so extensive. Many of our individual decisions are influenced by the songs, that we listen to. There is no way to separate our own personal taste in music from the broader social currents, that are shaping it.
One of the most important things that music does for us is provide a common frame of reference. Whether it be the music that we choose to process into our brains or the songs that make up our "internal soundtrack" of life, music provides a sort of "language" that we can all understand. We do not have to "relearn" the rules of grammar or the social mores of polite behavior, because those are encoded in the music. Without the framework of a common understanding, we would have nothing but our own, individual experiences to define who we are.
This is why it is so critical, that we choose our songs with care. We do not want to isolate ourselves from others, or even worse, fall into a state of despair. Music can be used for good or for evil. It is up to us to decide its proper purpose.