Music and Health

This document has some sample paragraphs from high scoring assignments in previous
years to give you a sense of the writing style and content. The paragraphs below come from
numerous essays, so the overall flow is interrupted. Hopefully this document will be useful
for you to see a range of approaches and possibilities. All answers have been de-identified.
Please note, any copying of this material will appear in the Turnitin report, as all past essays
are stored in a repository.
Excerpts from assignment introductions
Example 1 (assignment opening):
As a university student, it is easy to become caught up in anxiety over deadlines and
academic pressure. This stress is then exacerbated by the concerns of balancing study with
work, “me time”, and every other activity in between. The scarcity of time to be able to fully
appreciate and comprehend the present moment can be detrimental to both physical and
mental health. Studies have demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness in promoting greater
self-awareness and emotional regulation (Eckhardt & Dinsmore, 2012; Grocke, 2009). Being
able to focus attention on the present moment in a non-judgmental way is a human
capacity which that be practices and fostered. Using music as a resource in both meditative
and non-meditative mindfulness has been shown to cultivate self-regulation, thereby
promoting physiological balance (Steinfield & Brewer, 2015; Anderson, 2013). Having a
clearer and healthier frame of mind can have myriad benefits on other domains of health
and functioning, including potential improvements in mental capacity and study efficiency
(Bell, McIntyre & Hadley, 2016; Salimpoor et al., 2011; Jacobssen et al., 2015), and physical
health (Levitin, 2008).
Example 2:
I began this project by looking at the playlist I currently use during workouts. I have added
to it haphazardly over several years, it consists of over 200 songs and is inconsistently
helpful to my current practice. I extracted 25 songs I have found particularly motivating or
supportive recently. I placed these on a Spotify playlist and listened to each song, sorting
them into categories; warm up, cardio, strength, and warm down. Next I analysed each
individual song for elements that made them suitable/unsuitable for their category purpose.
After deciding how long each section needed to be, I chose the most supportive songs for
each section, while keeping in mind the timeframe of each. I trialled my first draft during a
workout, it was mostly successful. I particularly enjoyed not looking at the time and just
letting the music guide each section of the workout. This allowed me to be more in the
moment or ‘mindful’. I made minor changes to the order of the songs and trialled it a final
time. I found the second experience transitioned more smoothly between songs and
sections. However, I noticed I was already becoming overly familiar with these songs.
Therefore, for a long term solution I think several playlists to alternate between would be
more practical.
Example 3:
The order of the playlist should correlate closely with the exercise schedule; that is, pre-task
music is listened first prior to commencement of exercise, and has been shown to
effectively stimulate through optimising arousal and other psychological states
(Karageorghis, Terry, Lane, Bishop, & Priest, 2012). The first three pieces are slower in
tempo, but are quite thick in texture and evoke liveliness and positivity, which tends to
induce a more favourable response in extraverted people as they look to seek stimulation
from the external environment (Karageorghis et al., 2012; Karageorghis & Priest, 2012;
Clark, Baker, & Taylor, 2016). After the pre-task music, the song selections display an
increase in overall tempo to match the task of jogging, whilst still using songs that I already
enjoy, and maintaining an upbeat nature. Three of the songs contain lyrics that may play a
key role in inducing motivational imagery, even though they may not relate directly to the
physical activity (Priest & Karageorghis, 2008). Furthermore, the final song acts as a recovery
piece, as slow classical music has been shown to relax participants and lower tension,
enhancing the perfusion of blood and recovery (Karageorghis & Priest, 2012).
Assignment body (excerpts only, your assignment should have 10 songs included):
Example 3:
Miller-Heidke, K. (2009). The Last Day on Earth [Recording by Kate Miller-Heidke]. On
Curiouser. [CD]. Pasadena, California: Sony Music
With a slower tempo which could be described as andante, and a smooth, flowing melody in
a minor key, The Last Day on Earth is a sombre and reminiscent piece of music. In stark
contrast to the first few songs which were moderately fast and promoted feelings of joy, the
musical elements of this song invoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. Despite this
intention, the musical elements of this piece could alternatively prompt feelings of sadness
depending on how the listener appropriates the music, as McFerran and Saarikallio (2013)
have explored in their research. Much like the previous song, the repetitive and
uncomplicated nature of the song, combined with Miller-Heidke’s non-intrusive vocals,
invites the listener to bring their thoughts to the present and observe them in an accepting
and passive manner (Steinfield & Brewer, 2015; Anderson, 2013). In my experience, the
music afforded a mindfulness practice that supported me to foster a higher level of selfawareness (Echkardt & Dinsmore, 2012; Grocke, 2009).
Example 2:
Vic Mensa – Down on my Luck (2016) Cottontale, P., Keith-Graham, O., Mensah, V., Osteen,
C., & Ponce, S. (2016). Down On My Luck [Recorded by Vic Mensa]. On Pure Grime [MP3]
Having been energised by the first two songs, it was time to begin the exercise. I found that
I was pacing myself well whilst listening to this song, not focussing as much on the difficulty
of the routine. This can be explained by Szmedra and Bacharach (1998), whom indicate that
accompaniment of exercise with music reduces the rate of perceived exertion, ultimately
reflecting how music can act as a source of diversion from the difficulty of the physical
activity. This is further substantiated by Rejeski (1985), who indicates that attending to
music (one stimulus) prevents processing stimuli outside the attention span – i.e. the
routine’s difficulty. Ultimately, the song’s success is due to the distraction it provided from
the kick boxing routine’s difficulty.
Example 3:
Jason Derulo – Bubblegum (2013) Desrouleaux, J., Stevenson, M., Mosely, T., & Washington,
J. (2013). Bubblegum (feat. Tyga) [Recorded by Jason Derulo & Tyga]. On Talk Dirty [MP3]
The success of this song in the playlist was mostly attributed to volume variation inherent
within this song. As the song progressed from the verses to the chorus, the volume
increased, and so I was able to build up anticipation and then increase my exercise intensity
with this volume increase. This is consistent with the findings of Priest, Karageorghis and
Sharp (2004), which demonstrated that the motivational components of music were
enunciated when delivered at higher volumes. As a result, the increased volume in the
chorus increased the intensity of my exercise. This enhanced the kick boxing routine’s
efficiency, as I was able to pace myself and increased my intensity during the routine in
short bouts of high power exercise.
Example 4:
Fire and the Flood – Vance Joy Joy, V. (2014). Fire and the Flood [Recorded by Vance Joy].
On Dream Your Life Away. [CD]. Los Angeles, California: Liberation Music.
Still following this theme of relieving anxiety and stress through joyful and movementinducing music, Fire and the Flood has the added component of being a well-known and
‘catchy’ song. Being able to share and cele brate positive feelings, emotions, and sense of
well-being through popular music better equips us in being able to connect with others
(Levitin, 2008). The song’s repetitiveness, both in the lyrical and musical sense, with a
noticeable lack of change, combined with its relatively relaxed tone, gives it the potential to
be a piece of music listeners can use to “block stuff out” (McFerran & Saarikallio, 2013). This
paves the way in preparing the mind for mindfulness as it uses music listening as a
dissociative cognitive strategy that can divert attention away from internal experiences and
pain (Clark, Baker, & Taylor, 2016).
Example 5:
We Are The World 25 for Haiti – Artists for Haiti Jackson, M., & Ritchie, L. (2012). We are the
world 25 for Haiti [Recorded by Artists for Haiti]. On We are the world 25 for Haiti [CD]. Los
Angeles, CA: Sony Music.
The triumphant brass heralds the beginning of the ‘Flow’ section. Just like ‘Imagine’, this is a
collaboration song between artists, conveying a message of unity and hope following the
2010 Haiti earthquakes. Carey (2006) highlights the increasing use of music in trauma
therapy – praised for its ability to inspire listeners and help transcend suffering, music
played a significant role in Haiti’s healing (Hamilton & Kuriansky, 2012). However, while the
song’s lyrics are successful in encouraging empathy and emphasising sonder, I find it
ineffective at inducing flow – this is likely due to the laidback tempo and stereotypical pop
feel of the song. As opposed to active listening, which is marked by intense and highly
focused engagement with the music, this song’s confusing mixture of voices and styles
induces only passive listening (Elder, 2012).
Conclusion (excerpts only):
Example 1:
Each song in the playlist was chosen with the specific intent of promoting mental well-being.
I did so by carefully examining the music elements and qualities, reflecting upon my
associations with the music, and thinking consciously about the ways I appropriate the
affordances of music for mood regulation.
I began the playlist with the specific intent of bringing the listener into a positive and
motivational frame of mind. As each consecutive song is played, the music slows down to
reflect more relaxed and introspective, hopefully enabling and encouraging listeners to
practice mindfulness. I noticed in using the playlist as I transitioned between home and
university on long train journeys, that this transitional period is crucial to the way I manage
stress. As an accessible medium for both stimulation and relaxation that many students
could use when seeking to manage stress, playlists provide an important resource. I would
encourage others to find a similar time during the day, where they are involved in repetitive
or arduous tasks such as commuting, cooking, or cleaning, to use this time to actively select,
sequence, and listen to the music they personally find could aid them in promoting
mindfulness. As I have noted throughout the paper, doing so builds defences against stress
and anxiety. Further, taking an active step to consciously develop healthy ways of utilising
music for reflecting can provide insight into current adaptive and maladaptive coping
Example 2:
The mood, music, and movement theory (MMM) suggests “prescribing” music to individuals
can “promote the initiation and maintenance of physical activity” (Murrock & Higgins,
2009). While selecting music for my own playlist, I assumed that choosing primarily upbeat,
dance music would lead to the most successful workout, as rhythmic features impact
physiological arousal (Clark et al, 2015). I figured that if the songs I listen to are fast, then I
would run faster. While this is true to a certain extent, when I tested these songs, I realized
that I did not enjoy running to fast-paced music throughout my entire workout. This left me
unsatisfied with my workouts and lacking the desire to exercise.
Once I adjusted my playlist to include songs that would also improve my subjective
experience, I was more satisfied with my workouts and more likely to use the playlist again
the next day. According to Murrock & Higgins, both psychological responses such as altered
mood as well as the physiological response of moving to music are responsible for
promoting physical activity and health (2009). This component of the MMM theory explains
why I was not reaping benefits from a playlist that only catered to physical arousal.
While there are multiple studies describing specific ways to improve health through music,
the most important factor for me was that I chose songs that I truly love listening to. This
may differ for people who are specifically trying to improve their athletic performance and
doing intense training, but, for me, exercise should be pleasurable. I would suggest to those
trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle to focus less on which types of music literature says
should improve performance and test the songs out themselves.

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