Trying to be happier works when listening to upbeat music

The song, "Get Happy," famously performed by Judy Garland, has encouraged people to improve their mood for decades. Recent research at the University of Missouri discovered that an individual can indeed successfully try to be happier, especially when cheery music aids the process. This research points to ways that people can actively improve their moods and corroborates earlier MU research.

"Our work provides support for what many people already do – listen to music to improve their moods," said lead author Yuna Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an MU in psychological science. "Although pursuing may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher of socially beneficial behavior, better , higher income and greater ."

In two studies by Ferguson, 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.

However, Ferguson noted that for people to put her research into practice, they must be wary of too much 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," said Ferguson.

Ferguson's work corroborated earlier findings by Ferguson's doctoral advisor and co-author of the current study, Kennon Sheldon, professor of in MU's College of Arts and Science.

"The Hedonic Adaptation Prevention model, developed in my earlier research, says that we can stay in the upper half of our 'set range' of potential as long as we keep having positive experiences, and avoid wanting too much more than we have," said Sheldon. "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."

Ferguson is now assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University Shenango. The study, "Trying to Be Happier Really Can Work: Two Experimental Studies," was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Related Stories

Acts of kindness can make you happier

date Jan 24, 2013

(HealthDay)—Performing small acts of kindness and gratitude can make people happier, researchers believe, but how this occurs is more of a puzzle.

Recommended for you

Homely men who misbehave can't win for losing

date 11 hours ago

Women tolerate an unattractive man up to a point, but beware if he misbehaves. Then they'll easily shun him. So says Jeremy Gibson and Jonathan Gore of the Eastern Kentucky University in the U.S., after finding ...

Challenging students benefit from limit setting

date 11 hours ago

The teacher's interaction style can either foster or slow down the development of math skills among children with challenging temperaments. This was shown in the results of the study "Parents, teachers and children's learning" ...

Are antidepressants more effective than usually assumed?

date 11 hours ago

Many have recently questioned the efficacy of the most common antidepressant medications, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The conclusion that these drugs are ineffective is however partly ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.