Can Music Cure Your Creativity Crisis?

Music is part of our social fabric, it’s used as our social currency to gain kinships and admiration. Music resonates with different areas of our brain so that we can associate language, memories, smells, and emotions with a single lyric. It’s what makes us human; it is universal.

Though some animals can dance to a beat, humans are the only ones who can put the entire puzzle together —timing, beats, harmony, language, and memory— to form songs. albums and genres of music.

If we had to add one more thing to add to the list of what we don’t wholly appreciate, it’s our ability to make sense of our environment through our ears. Dating back to our ancestors, music has been a perpetual force that has weaved through our histories as we’ve developed and grown in our cultures and abilities. Yet somehow, along the way, we’ve begun to take it for granted. Thanks to evolving technologies and internet platforms, the art of buying CDs is dwindling, carefully preserved records now fill up flea markets and curating mix-tapes are unplayable. While Spotify is triumphing, offering us millions of songs for an affordable price, the much-loved UK based music retailer, HMV, has gone into administration for the second time in the last decade.

Though our Spotify counters tell us we’re listening to plenty, we don’t fully immerse ourselves in it. Spotify, YouTube, Tidal and more platforms are changing the way we listen to music. For all the benefits of these platforms such as accessibility, ease, and affordability, they’re also the detrimental binge culture. Instead of sitting down to consciously take in and appreciate a new album, music is often used as background noise or silence fillers. On top of these developments, audio content —podcasts and audiobooks— is dominating our generation’s ears. Average music listening time is down, having dropped from an average of 32.1 hours a week to 26.9 hours, according to Nielson Music’s Music 360 Report. 

The problem with our disregarding attitude toward music is that we are forgetting a vital tool that can be used to boost our creativity. Despite popular belief, creativity isn’t needed solely to write well, paint a picture or design a home. Creative thinking is about problem-solving, open-mindedness and organization and music can be crucial for this. 

Music And Divergent Thinking

The study of music psychology is a growing interest, famed mostly for inconclusive experiments on the Mozart Effect; a belief in the eighties that listening to music makes you more intelligent.

Yet recent research has been broadening into the realms of the unwavering correlation between music and divergent thinking. 

Divergent thinking is a core component in creativity that ultimately qualifies us to make unexpected combinations, recognize links among remote associates and transform information into unexpected forms. In other words, it enables us to think outside the box.

Listening to music can energize our brains to develop a flexible way of thinking. This boost in creativity allows us to overcome mental barriers and gain a fresh perspective on a problem, an idea, and any other creative mind blocks. It relaxes our brains and boosts our moods, pushing us into mind-wandering mode, which in turn unlocks that creative flexibility. 

On top of this boost in divergent thinking, is its influence on our emotions. The knock-on effect of a positive mood and a relaxed brain can ignite those “Ah-ha!” breakthrough moments in which we incubate fruitful new ideas. 

Why Do We Need Creative Flexibility?

The definition of creativity has changed in contemporary society, and people are considered as either-or. But creativity doesn’t stick to one side of the playing field, it’s enmeshed in our lives, it trickles into different aspects and we subconsciously pull on it in the times we need it. 

Listening to music can energize our brains to develop a flexible way of thinking.

Creativity isn’t solely synonymous with talent, genius, and art, it’s also an inherent part of our normative cognitive function. Creativity is part of our make-up as humans, it’s something we need to develop and move forward.  

A study named “Happy Creativity” researched the link between music and creativity. Carried out by Simone M Ritter the study concluded that “a flexible thinking style is not limited to one particular creative field, but is equally valid for artistic, verbal and scientific creativity”. Creative thinking is energy to conceive new ideas, think elaborately, synthesize information and generally remain curious.

Due to our overly busy society, we rarely allow ourselves to hit peak mind-wandering mode, an option that is ideal for creative flexibility. Mind-wandering itself boosts creative problem solving and even delayed gratification which can be advantageous for achieving personal goals. This 2017 study found that happy and sad music can insinuate this desired mind-wandering state.  

Despite the onslaught of mindfulness and the trend of feeling present, it’s important to acknowledge the vitality and benefits of day-dreaming and digression.

Is Listening To Music the Solution To A Creative Crisis?

Is the solution so simple? Listen to more music and encourage it in schools and workplaces? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear just yet. But the link between music and creativity is unmistakable and it’s a simple tool we can all access. 

Creative thinking is energy to conceive new ideas, think elaborately, synthesize information and generally remain curious.

Deborah Collier, the strategic education and business leader, says that music is vital for solving problems and formulating ideas. She told Clever-ish; “Listening to music while relaxing or even dancing, is a great way to rest the brain and enable it to free up space for creativity. I have some of my best ideas when walking, dancing or relaxing listening to music, and for me, both the melody and the lyrics have an impact on my creativity.”

Collier highlighted the cultural shift toward nurturing innovation and divergent thinking, but she also acknowledged that the current economic climate is squandering creative levels and that we are “being challenged by the volume of media, whether this be entertainment, information or education”. We are in essence bombarded with clickbait, likes and dislike options, targeted advertising and so we struggle to fully absorb the content offered. 

If creativity is the fire then music is the fuel and boy, do we need more fire. Innovation and creativity have gotten us this far, and even though our current worldly affairs are messy and overwhelming, creative thinking can help us through. 

When we’re feeling as though our ideas are all dried up, we don’t know how to overcome a problem and our communication levels are low, instead of giving up, maybe all we need is some quality time with our favorite playlist. If you’re reading this because you need to jumpstart your creativity, just take a step back and play your favorite song. Allow your mind to wander, settle into relaxation and feel the rhythm. 

Looking for creative inspiration through music? Check out my Creative Boost playlist. or listen below

and also check out the Clever-ish Creativity Cafe playlist

 

What songs or artists spark your creativity? Share below

Images: Unsplash 

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Aoife Smith

I would describe myself as a teacher, writer, and reader. I teach English in Madrid, and I have a degree in English Literature and Psychology. I'm currently studying journalism and I write in my spare time about issues stemming from a quarter-life crisis, being on a budget, social observations, the future, food, and literature. You can find me at onebrokegal.com