My 28-Day Music Detox

Black wireless earbuds on a black textured background

Detox from music — are you crazy!? Well, possibly. But surely you’ve wondered what plugging into a personal sound chamber almost 24/7 might be doing to you — just a little bit?

In all honesty, I wasn’t really sure what to expect or what I’d signed myself up for. Would it be beautifully tranquil, or would my brain scream at me for putting it through hellish emptiness? I was soon to find out it was both.

The Exceptions

Going without music entirely is practically impossible unless your lock yourself up in a room out in the middle of nowhere. So before I jump into it, here’s the main exceptions I followed:

  1. If someone else is listening to music and it’s unavoidable. I can’t expect everyone to join me in silence. However, I should try and remove myself from an area playing music if possible.
  2. If a game or a movie has music, so long as the music is not loud and is only instrumental. Films and games are not banned, though try to cut down.

Note: The following views are of my own only. I have not included any scientific literature or data in this article. This article aims to share my beliefs and experiences of this personal experiment.

The Journal

Week 1

Day one was genuinely peaceful. It was strangely pleasant to not have music playing to fill the space of my studio, and allowed me to get stuck in instead of flicking through to find a song I love. It wasn’t like the “I was blind, but now I see” scene from Limitless when the NZT finally kicks in boosting Eddie’s focus, but it was powerful to be present and engrossed in calm concentration.

But That serene equilibrium did not last long. As soon as I stepped on the treadmill for a late-night run, my brain practically went into meltdown mode. Not only was it more challenging to run without the aid of music to psyche me up, but my mind was frantically scanning for distractions; begging for it even.

. . .

For the few days that followed, I experienced the craziest brain fog — almost fuzziness — coupled with mad agitation and fidgeting. It was like I’d gone cold turkey and withdrawal symptoms had just drop kicked my head. What’s more, songs were getting stuck in my head far more often, as if my brain was replaying anything it possibly could to avoid parting from music. I basically became an agitated, fuzzy-headed jukebox.

. . .

As the week drew on, the brain fog and fuzziness receded, and I began to feel a little more human again. My music cravings certainly didn’t disappear, but now I was able to operate somewhat normally, my brain falling to it’s occasional melodramatic “Music, oh music, where art thou music?” whimper.

On the plus side, I was starting to see some possible benefits. I noticed that my anxiety and depression had taken a little step down, and while my insomnia persisted — as it so often does — I wasn’t so on edge as I’d been previously. Though, it was early days and could have been entirely unrelated.

. . .

By the end of the week, I was beginning to feel free and, dare I say it, was slowly starting to enjoy the silence. Apart from my neighbour’s ear-shattering rendition of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and a little bit of music from the odd Youtube video or bit of gaming, I’d not listened to anything.

. . .

Each person I mentioned my challenge to replied with “What do you mean you’ve quit music?” as if I’d told them some inconceivable quantum physics hoo-ha that made their brain fart.

Week 2

My focus seems to be becoming more consistent and dependable. Some days I’m in “the zone” and others I have to push through and steer myself away from ever-enticing procrastination. It’s a bit of an up-and-down. Maybe this is just normality, but I’m more aware of it?

. . .

Really weird withdrawals again. Every morning, or every moment I do something away from the computer when I’m not 100% focused, my brain starts recalling songs (some I’m not even that big of a fan of), and I start humming or quietly singing awfully.

. . .

Day 11: I’ve gone and broken my streak. In the early hours this morning, my anxiety peaked rather abruptly . Failing to shrug it off, I took to meditation and listened to some solfeggio frequency music.

Whether this was down to peaked anxiety, or an intense meditation session, or increased sensitivity, I had some bizarre experiences. I had a feeling like I was shedding my body and leaking up out of my head. A little later, my body felt like it had fully connected with the frequency of the music, buzzing and vibrated in harmony. This isn’t unusual for meditation, though.

. . .

My emotions — besides my night of anxiety — have been far more stable from what I’ve been able to observe. I could be wrong, but I think music was encouraging my shifts in mood. I suppose when you plug yourself into a dopamine machine for large portions of your day it’s bound to happen.

On top of that, my brain can handle exercise without music fine now. An hour on the treadmill is still a struggle, I’ve the cardio of a slug, but my mind is no longer scanning for distraction. I’ve not tried to meditate without music since I last broke my music detox. Maybe I should give it a go?

Week 3

16 days without it, and I feel like I no longer need music to concentrate. I decide what needs doing, and I go do it. There’s no need to pick the right playlist or mix or skip a bunch of songs that don’t resonate at the time. It’s blissful! I breeze through the days calmly, I feel present, and I can sit down and get to work without distraction — apart from my neighbours bi-weekly pain-inducing karaoke singing.

. . .

To be completely honest with you, this week has absolutely flown past! Unfortunately, this means I haven’t documented much either. I’ve not really had the time to think about the absence of music except for when I’ve been on the treadmill, but even then it hasn’t been significant. Sorry!

Week 4

Strangely, I don’t miss music as much as I thought I would. I was prepared for this detox to be hell, but I’m actually feeling good? It’s not euphoric and ground breaking or anything of that magnitude, but I’m convinced that I’m in a better place now thanks to it.

. . .

I believe I’m calmer and more focused. I’m able to switch into work mode quicker, and I don’t get distracted as much. I’m ready to think clearly straight away without having to change to more instrumental songs. I’m less influenced by external thoughts or feelings that songs and lyrics often encourage. Exercise is still by far the hardest part of it, but it’s doable.

My emotions have certainly been a lot more stable. It’s funny how, while time seems like it’s going so fast, it feels as though it was months since I’d last listened to anything.

Listening to Music Again

Songs no longer sound how I remember them, and it almost feels like my ears and brain are being overloaded. It’s satisfying, of course, but it’s also a significant change. I’m also beginning to see just how effective an aid and distraction it can be.

When you lack all motivation to push through your to-do list, music is superb. When exercise is a struggle, and you find yourself fatiguing, a switch of a song can give you that much-needed jolt to keep going. But when detail and attention are paramount, music distracts—at least in my case it did.

Now that I’ve detoxed, I can see the rather stark influences music had on my thoughts and emotional state. It can spin you into joy, sadness, and determination in a space of 10-minutes with the right songs. Surely that can’t be healthy? I can see how it disconnects you from the present, shuts you off from others and the world (though needed at times, granted), and takes you on a neurotic rollercoaster.

Much like anything in life, I think music should be enjoyed in moderation. You shouldn’t be plugged into it 24/7, but I don’t think you need to go entirely without it either.

Give it a go!

Why not give this a go yourself and share how you get on? I’m curious to see if anyone else will have similar experiences or if I’m just an odd ball.

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