Music can affect how you feel, and now a new study finds that listening to a happy song to boost your mood can help you do just that.
Researchers from the University of Missouri enlisted 173 participants in a music listening experiment. Over the course of two weeks, two groups were asked to improve their moods by listening to the upbeat tune "Rodeo" by Aaron Copland or, alternatively, Igor Stravinsky's somber classic "The Rite of Spring." Two other groups listened to one of the two songs, but without being told to try to boost their mood. Interestingly, only the Copland group reported an improved mood, meaning only those actively seeking happiness through the music enjoyed the benefits.
In a second experiment, participants reported higher levels of happiness after two weeks of lab sessions in which they listened to upbeat music while trying to feel happier, compared to control participants who only listened to music.
"Our work provides support for what many people already do -- listen to music to improve their moods," said lead author Yuna Ferguson. "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."
However, Ferguson warns to be cautious about getting too introspective and constantly wondering, "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," said Ferguson.
Findings, announced May 14, appear in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
Prior research has found that from almost the moment we are born, our feelings are influenced by the music we hear. A 2008 study found that five-month-old babies reacted to happy songs and by nine months they recognized and were affected by sad songs. That study was published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development.