As we navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives, our capacity to be creative is essential to reimagining our way forward. This is the first in our series of blogs exploring simple and surprising doorways into higher creativity.

Music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. It is used in pain management, stress relief, memory stimulation, brain injury and with elite athletes.

We’ve been moved by people around the world playing music on their balconies to elevate mood, calm nerves and connect us. Maybe you listen to music to focus and get motivated, to relax or to spur you along on a run or workout. Listening to music you love makes your brain release dopamine, a neurotransmitter critical for motivation, attention, focus, learning, creativity and mood.

So why exactly is music a useful doorway into creativity? Why do we need to be creative in these current turbulent times?

Our world is unquestionably different, requiring us to change our thinking and behaviors. We must reorganize and reimagine our work and how we live. Doing things the same old way, for most of us, no longer applies. Fostering a brain state conducive to creative insight is now essential.

Insights, or ‘a-ha!’ moments, are new connections made between existing neurons, enabling new thoughts and new behaviors. An insight is the sudden, effortless realization of a new solution. Creative insights are powerful, memorable and give us a burst of energy. (Anyone NOT want more of these?!)

Music is one way to foster such a creative brain state.

So, what type of music is useful? A recent study suggests that listening to happy music promotes greater divergent thinking – the capacity to come up with more innovative ideas *

Mark Jung Beeman’s research into what happens in the brain during insight, shows that just prior to that pleasurable ‘a-ha!’ moment, alpha wave activity increases.  Studies show that listening to classical music increases this slower alpha wave activity, relaxing the mind and priming the brain for increased insight.

So, whether you ready to fire up Beyoncé and lace up the runners, lay down with some gentle Brahms or practice your trumpet . . . have at it! Your brain, your health and your work, will benefit!

* Ritter SM, Ferguson S (2017) Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0182210.