Music can hold a lot of significance. It has the ability to make you happy and sad — as well as a number of other emotions — in the space of a few minutes.
It can also help bust you out of a bad mood. Maybe you’ve woken up feeling irritated or someone has done something to bug you — whatever it is, music might be the answer to shaking off these feelings.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Missouri in the United States looked at whether listening to positive music could induce happiness. The study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, asked participants to actively try to improve their mood while listening to music.
In two studies, participants recorded their mood after listening to certain types of music. The researchers found that those who listened to upbeat music by composer Copland (rather than something more low-key like Stravinsky) while also trying to improve their mood did just that.
According to researchers, “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.”
Putting effort into feeling better while listening to upbeat music was the winning combination to breaking out of a bad mood.
“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-centred venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behaviour, better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction.”
When it comes to using this method yourself, Ferguson warned against putting too much introspection on your mood.
“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.
Professor of psychological science in MU’s College of Arts and Science and co-author of the study, Kennon Sheldon, noted that the research showed how we can change our mood and happiness with intention.
“Yuna’s research suggests that we can intentionally seek to make mental changes leading to new positive experiences of life,” he said. “The fact that we’re aware we’re doing this, has no detrimental effect.”
So, the next time you’re in a bad mood, pop on your favourite feel-good tunes and put some energy into turning your day around.