I have always listened to music more than the average person. Whether I am in the car, at home, at the gym, or in a waiting room. I feel like these are opportune moments to fit in at least a song or two. And it’s not just me. Everywhere I go I see people with headphones placed in their ears.
To understand why we do this, we need only to notice one thing: companies play music when they put you on hold. They do this for the same reason there is music in elevators and waiting rooms.
Messing With Time Perception
Music skews your perception of time. Time goes by slower when you’re sitting in silence and faster when there’s something to hear. This probably isn’t something new to you. Einstein noticed time is relative, though I’m sure he wasn’t the first to do so.
The thing to note is this is not limited to music. We speed time up by checking our phone, eating, watching TV, and fantasizing.
It’s no wonder why we turn on music when on the bus or when driving. Without some stimulus, we feel antsy.
The Long Term Effect
Although fast forwarding might be helpful when you want to speed up the waiting process, it can come at a detriment to your patience. You are less able to experience time passing as it normally does without pushing it along with music (or TV, or eating, or web surfing).
My decision to have less noise has been influenced by my effort to be more mindful. I am always trying to be more aware. More in the moment with what I’m doing. This requires me to be calmly doing what I’m doing, and nothing else. This includes listening to music.
When I have music playing, my attention was more on the music. If you’re listening to a song, in addition to meaningful lyrics, one thing the singer is always saying is “LISTEN TO ME”. Try listening to a lyric-dense song while reading a book. It won’t happen. Intellectually, you can focus only on one thing.
Different Music, Different Effect
Certain types of music are definitely more demanding than others. If you blast Metallica while reading, how focused are you on the road? It’s definitely harder to be aware of what’s going on. That’s why people turn down the radio while looking for a street address. On the other hand, classical music or other instrumental works don’t take away from the moment as much. In fact sometimes they can facilitate what you’re doing.
Doing certain things in silence can be incredibly calming. I suggest first trying this with driving or walking. If you have a quick trip to the store or the gym, try doing it in silence. Listen to the air and the sounds of the street.
This little change can cause you to be more calm and present. I’ve learned to enjoy the sounds of the world more. In my room I’ll open my window and her birds or the wind.
Another wonderful outcome is you actually appreciate music more. When music isn’t constantly playing, then you can really enjoy it when it is.
Photo by Bernard Laguerre