One morning at the beginning of the the year I was making my way to the underground station to go to work.
I was feeling really energetic and ready to make the day happen. I had read a really inspiring book the night before and had woken up that morning still with an incredibly motivated mindset. I went on Spotify to look for a playlist, and before I knew it the following lyrics had flooded my ears:
'Same bed but it feels just a little bit bigger now,
Our song on the radio but it don't sound the same,
When our friends talk about you, all it does is just tear me down,
'Cause my heart breaks a little when I hear your name'
I'd suddenly felt like I'd been transported back in time five years! This song reminded me of a particular person who I'd been in a relationship with during that time, and we went through a difficult break up. Although a few years have passed and we're both happy, and have moved on with our separate lives, this song will always evoke a heavy feeling in me as it was a time in my life full of such deep emotion and feelings for him.
As the song was playing I caught my mood and noticed that I'd slightly lost my 'mojo' for the day. In fact, I realised I'd had lost all of it! The mood of the song and the ones that followed it had put me in a bit of a funk. Oh, those bloody love ballads! *shakes fist at the sky in anger*
Welcome to my Monday morning Mr. Bruno Mars, but you weren't invited.
Songs are stories which can be so relatable to each and everyone of us on an individual level. Depending on what we're going through at any time in our lives, they speak to us, sometimes feeling as if it's happening directly with our hearts. Lyrics have the ability to pick you up and put you in a great mood, or they have the ability to put you down, with the words that can speak to past memories of losing a loved one, a painful break-up or anger towards someone. Songs can put all of these feelings and emotions into the forefront of your mind. Furthermore, a song can transport us to a very specific moment in our past when we have a vivid memory of hearing it. If that was during a good or bad event in your life this unexpected audio time travel can be both a blessing and a curse to your current mood in the present.
True, sometimes we can listen to a song, sing the lyrics and at the same time pay no attention to the words or their meanings and enjoy the track as a whole. It's similar to when you were ten years old in the back of the car swaying along to the Spice Girls and unknowingly singing at the top of your lungs about putting on condoms;
'Be a little bit wiser baby, put it on, put it on, 'Cause tonight is the night when two become one'
On a serious note, many songs can evoke deep meaning and memories from within us. It's important to be aware that as you're listening (although you aren't directly engaging in conversation with that person), you're engaging with someone else's story, and that may well be now distracting you from your own.
Don't underestimate the power and influence that someone else's words have over you, even when it has a great back beat that makes you sit in your car bobbing your head to it like a nodding dog. Pay attention to where your mind wanders when you're listening to any music with lyrics. Has it now drifted your attention away from the fitness plan you were creating for yourself, to where you're now instead thinking about the last time you saw your relative before they passed away?
As I'm walking along with Bruno Mars now ringing in my ears I've become rather frustrated, in fact angry, at how the words of someone else had now thrown me off of my thoughts and my positive morning vibe.
This led me to make the decision to cut them out and switch to instrumental music, and it changed everything.
No more words.
I discovered that listening to music with no lyrics is really effective in helping to bring in focus, and also to let the mind wander. It gives peace of mind and mental space needed to think. Any tracks which have calming and smooth instrumentals can help you drift away into your thoughts. It enables you to tap into the creative part of your brain and melt into a different world in the mind, where possibilities of what you want to do with your life are endless. When you shut out the world and just play the background music, your own story and your future plans can be heard properly as they start to sing louder and louder without being interrupted.
Bruno step aside, it's my time now.
After a month of doing this new routine habit, I was suprised at how my brain had now trained itself to take the cue when the music comes on. Now, when particular types of instrumental music comes through my headphones it automatically slows down my mind without me trying. It's like my own timeout in my head where I can feel far away from everyone and everything, lost in my own thoughts even when I'm squished in like a sardine with other Londoners on the underground during rush hour. It gives your brain permission to say;
'This is my time to think about me and what I want. These other feelings and thoughts have a place, but right here and now is not the time for them.'
A Handy Tip
In Spotify, go into the 'Browse' and tab you'll be presented with different categories of music. If you click on the 'Focus' option it will bring up many different relevant playlists. I would personally recommend trying out the following:
• Smooth Jazz
• Hans Zimmer
• Peaceful Guitar
• Peaceful Piano
• Instrumental Study
• Acoustic Concentration
I'm also a big fan of listening to instrumental songs from films, so finding some movie soundtrack playlists is also a great go-to place.
If you already do the above, what types of instrumentals work best for you?
If your current music routines enable you to be productive and focused, then continue to do what works for you. However, if you're always yearning for a bit of 'thinking space' but never seem to really find it, then give this technique a try and see how you get on. Don't give up on the first attempt, as it can take a while for a new and different style of background music to grow on you. I'd suggest trying different types of instrumental playlists with different tempos. See what type of work style or thinking comes from them and what suits you best for the type of work you're doing. Work out what is conducive for you to get your mind and thoughts flowing, those that motivate and inspire you.
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Ps: On a side note I think its important I set some time aside to re-listen to all of the Spice Girls songs to see what I was actually singing as a kid out the window of my parents car...