Come on, get happy, crank up the music

U. MISSOURI (US) — You really can convince yourself to be happier, especially if you’re listening to an upbeat song while doing so.

“Our work provides support for what many people already do—listen to music to improve their moods,” says lead author Yuna Ferguson, who performed the study while she was a doctoral student in psychological science at the University of Missouri.

“Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income, and greater relationship satisfaction.”


For two studies published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, participants successfully improved their moods in the short term and boosted their overall happiness over a two week period.

During the first study, participants improved their mood after being instructed to attempt to do so, but only if they listened to the upbeat music of Copland, as opposed to the more somber Stravinsky.

Other participants, who simply listened to the music without attempting to change their mood, also didn’t report a change in happiness. In the second study, participants reported higher levels of happiness after two weeks of lab sessions in which they listened to positive music while trying to feel happier, compared to control participants who only listened to music.

But people should be wary of too much introspection into their mood or constantly asking, “Am I happy yet?”

“Rather than focusing on how much happiness they’ve gained and engaging in that kind of mental calculation, people could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination,” Ferguson says.

The work corroborates earlier findings by Ferguson’s doctoral advisor and co-author of the current study, Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological science.

“We can stay in the upper half of our ‘set range’ of potential happiness as long as we keep having positive experiences and avoid wanting too much more than we have,” Sheldon says.

“Yuna’s research suggests that we can intentionally seek to make mental changes leading to new positive experiences of life. The fact that we’re aware we’re doing this, has no detrimental effect.”

Source: University of Missouri