Feel Calm and Focused, the Natural Way

08/07/2016 12:26 | Updated 08 July 2016

You can use your body's natural response to rhythm to change how you feel.

We've all wanted to change how we feel at some point. Perhaps you drink coffee to feel more alert before arriving at work. Or maybe you've considered taking up yoga to help wind down at the end of the day. Personally, I like the idea of meditation, but with a busy job and family life I have no idea when I'd find the time.

One thing many of us do is choose our music to change our mood.

There are all sorts of reasons why you might choose a particular song - the melody, the lyrics, the memories you associate with it. But one thing you might not have realised is that the tempo of the song also changes how you feel.

Often we pick slower music when we want to unwind, and we pick faster music when we want to feel more alert.

But why does the tempo of the music make such a difference? To answer this question we need a basic understanding of psychophysiology - the study of the relationship between your brain and your body.

Our brains and bodies respond naturally to rhythm.

This can be a biological rhythm. For example, the heartbeats of a mother and baby will synchronise with one another when they interact closely, and similar effects have been observed in couples.

A recent demonstration even showed that the heartbeats of dogs and their owners sync up when they're reunited!

We also respond to external rhythms. The tempo of a song can naturally alter our breathing rate and heart rate. In fact, researchers in Sweden found that not only can choir singers harmonise their voices, they can also synchronise their heartbeats. The team monitored the heart rates of singers and found that as the members sang in unison, their pulses began to speed up and slow down at the same rate.

The link between heart rate and how a person is feeling is well known.

Have a think about this scenario: It's dark. You hear a noise, you begin to feel scared, and your heart starts pounding. And now think about this one: It's dark. You hear a noise, your heart starts pounding and you begin to feel scared. Which is true?

In reality, both are true. Your brain and body are constantly talking to each other with each other. The physiological state of the body which is encoded in the heart, among other body organs, is relayed to the brain constantly, on every single heartbeat. Our feelings and mood are influenced by our heart rate.

This is a phenomenon that the team I work with are very interested in. We took four years' worth of research into psychophysiology and created doppel - a wristband that vibrates silently like a heartbeat on the inside of your wrist.

doppel uses the most natural rhythm that exists, the one we all experience first as embryos. We do not simply perceive this rhythm, but we entrain to it - a faster rhythm makes us more alert, and a slower one calms us down.

doppel works with a companion app but once set you can leave your phone behind. Change to the slower rhythm by stroking the device or give it a short sharp tap to feel the faster beat kick in. The app stores your personal rhythms, each one linked to your own resting heart rate, and you can upload new pairs at any time.

Whether we want to focus at work, to stay calm in stressful situations, or to wind down before going to sleep, we can all use this natural response to set the pace we want for our day.

But if you're going to try and change your mood with music, just make sure to check with your team before blasting your personalised productivity playlist over the office soundsystem...

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