Dear Fellow ALPHA,
Music has never been more accessible than it is today. We can stream music videos and songs with the touch of a button and we consume a lot of it! According to Edison Research, Americans consume just over 4 hours of audio programing a day. The overwhelming majority, 97%, of this audio programing comes in the form of music.
For me, music is a major component of my day. At my office, if I'm not listening to music through my headphones then the flat screen on my wall is playing VEVO music videos. My love for music extends to my vacations as well.
When planning a trip to Las Vegas the first thing I do is look at which DJ’s are playing, I absolutely love seeing the best DJ’s in the world. This includes Tiesto, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Deadmau5 and especially the late Avicii. The beat, the lights and the excitement keeps me energized for days. Little did I know that my clubbing adventures, my headphones and my VEVO playlists were all biohacking my physiology!
Biohacking is a new term – well, a somewhat new term. It stems from the combination of the word biology and hacker. Biology is the study and science of living tissue and hacker is a slang term used for someone or something who uses unconventional means to gain access and manipulate a system. Combining these two words, biohacker, describes someone who is looking to manipulate their body through unconventional means.
These unconventional means can come in many different forms such as wearing special glasses that block the blue light from a computer, smartphone or television screen. Float tanks, active movement patters, foods, pharmaceuticals and herbs are all examples of biohacking. Really, anything that affects the performance of your physiology can be considered biohacking.
Personally, I am not usually one who likes to play mad scientist with my physiology. That being said, I am open to using non-toxic items that have little downside and potentially massive upside to improve my physiology and ultimately my performance.
As I alluded to earlier, biohacking isn’t really a “new” thing. Biohacking in some form or another has been going on for a long time. Our parents were “hacking” their physiology with herbs like echinacea and goldenseal to fend off the flu and St. John's wort to increase their moods. Yoga practitioners have been teaching a form of “hacking” to induce calmness and reduce anxiety through meditation and breathing techniques.
Heck, Dr. D.D. Palmer may have come up with the ultimate biohack when he invented the idea of adjusting the vertebral spinal column directly affecting the nervous system without drugs or surgery. This “idea” ended up blossoming into a science and grew into creating the second largest health care providers in America – Chiropractors.
What’s my point? My point is that since the dawn of time, humans have been looking for ways to manipulate their physiology in the hopes that they will live longer, happier and more fulfilled lives.
This brings us back to the title of this article, Biohacking with Music. Is music a powerful biohack? Can simply tuning into a specific radio station, Spotify playlist or VEVO channel really produce a positive response within our bodies?
Music and Physical Performance
For as long as I can remember I have used music to influence my emotions and harness a more powerful response from my body. This isn’t a grand idea, it's pretty basic if you stop and think about it. For me, dance music and good old fashion rock and roll elicit the best physiological responses. Again, this isn’t exactly ground breaking information. It's fairly well known that the BPM (beats per minute) of a song can directly affect a persons heart rate.
But, can it directly affect your performance? According to the website verywellfit.com, the answer is a resounding…YES! Christine Luff states that the BPM a runner listens to can affect their stride turnover. Stride turnover is how many steps a runner takes during a minute of running.
Luff, an accomplished runner herself, claims that efficient runners have a stride turnover of about 180 STM (steps per minute) and if a runner listens to music with an equivalent BPM their body will adapt to the beat. Essentially, matching the BPM to the runners desired stride turnover. Luff even suggests some playlists which include songs that have 180 BPM for runners to listen to.
Music can aid with increasing efficiency in the workplace as well. Researchers found that people who listened to music at work had increased efficiency at their job. Another study published in a 2012 issue of Work found that playing music without lyrics is preferable because lyrics may distract workers and ultimately reduce work place efficacy. Music directly affects our efficiency lifting, running and even performing well at work.
Maybe Milton, the character from the movie Office Space, who just wanted to listen to the radio at a reasonable volume between 9 and 11 was a little ahead of his time.
Music and Brain Functioning
According to the New York Times article The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubical listening to music you find enjoyable has the ability to stimulate dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine stimulates a cognitive process called motivational salience, specifically incentive salience, which stimulates people to become motivated toward goal attainment.
Listening to uplifting music has also been shown to help stimulate creativity. A study published in 2017 found that participants were more creative while listening to uplifting music as compared to those who abstained from listening to music. The authors concluded “music may provide an innovative means to facilitate creative cognition in an efficient way in various scientific, educational and organizational settings when creative thinking is needed.”
Music and Immune Functioning
What if music not only influences our performance, emotions, motivation and creativity but also has the ability to influence our immunity? Is it possible that what we listen to can have an effect on our ability to fend off or recover from illness?
Dr. Ronny Enk a neurocognition expert at Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany tested the effects of music on immunity. Dr. Enk and his colleagues performed a study in which 300 individuals listen to 50 minutes of happy, energetic dance music. The results were profound.
They found cortisol a stress hormone, which can impair the immune system, was significantly decreased in those listening to dance music as compared to the control group. Plus, after listening to dance music the participant’s IgA, an immune system defense complex, was heightened!
In essence, stress hormones were decreased and immune complexes were increased. Dr. Enk said of the results “We did not use relaxing music, but rather exciting music that were joyful dance tunes from different centuries.” This is a great study which continues to shed light on the power music has in our lives.
Choosing uplifting, happy and inspiring tunes to fill your day will not only make you more cheerful but it just might make you physically healthier as well.
In conclusion, from what I continue to read, the research says that what we listen to has a more profound affect on our lives than we know. It's common for people to talk about eating with intention, I propose that we start to listen with intention! I suggest creating playlists for specific physiological or psychological responses.
If you want to be creative, pick a playlist that is loaded with upbeat, happy music. Feeling a little under the weather? Maybe a dance playlist will give you just the boost of energy that you need. Or, if you want to get more done at work select a playlist with fewer lyrics but a good beat.
The next time you put on your Beats, Jaybirds or EarPods you’ll know that you’re doing much more than just listening to music...you’re biohacking!
Until next time,
Attack your life with passion...and an awesome playlist!
Brandon DiNovi Co-Founder and CEO, RAM