The Playlist Trick That Could Make You Happier (And More Productive)
"Happiness hack" of the week! Experts say go ahead and listen to your fave song as many times as you want; it'll make you happier and more focused.
At the end of last year, when Spotify notified me that they’d put together a list of my most-listened-to songs of 2016, nothing really came as a surprise. It was mostly tracks from ANTI, but holding down the number one spot was “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande. I listened to that song for, like, hours—possibly days—out of my year.
Would I have felt cooler if it was Bikini Kill or Bill Withers, or really just any song aside from one that’s basically four minutes of validating a patriarchal sexual dynamic? One thousand percent.
But the heart wants what it wants, and besides, songs meant for strip clubs are a visceral experience and everyone knows it.
The point is, our brains may become obsessed with a song for any number of reasons, ranging from repetition (i.e. you can’t avoid hearing it all the time, and it eventually just gets stuck in your head) to our musical backgrounds and personality, according psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind.
And embarrassing as our proclivities might be every now and again (no you’re obsessed with “PILLOWTALK!") it’s actually a good thing, because your desire to listen to a song on repeat can work to your advantage.
me: I have a really diverse music taste— common fangirl (@CommonFanGrI) August 15, 2017
me: *listens to the same song on repeat for three weeks*
I find a song I like and I play it on repeat until it gets old and I hate me for it but I'm not gonna change— Shadd McLochlin (@S_McLovin_85) August 13, 2017
is it still a workout 'playlist' if the only song is shake it off on repeat for 45 minutes?— Julianne Ross (@JulianneRoss) September 13, 2014
“Most of us are obsessive listeners to some degree or other,” Margulis explained in an interview with Mic. When we obsessively listen to a song, we are “fostering an intimate connection to the music while bypassing conceptual cognition and allowing the sound to seem ‘lived’ rather than ‘perceived.’”
In other words, we dissolve into a song we love, putting our minds in a singular state of focus that blocks out external thoughts. And if you really let yourself be consumed by it, this focus can carry over into your next task.
So next time you’re feeling stuck, queue up your jam of the moment a half-hour straight and bathe yourself in that song without shame, because a) it’ll make you happy, and b) it’s good for productivity.
And pro tip: Listening on headphones will enable you to dissolve even deeper into the resplendent pleasure of all those stereophonic layers—subtleties that can get lost when listening to music on your smartphone or laptop speakers.
Words: Deena Drewis