Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies

Think yourself happy! Is becoming happier as easy as trying to become happier? The latest research by two US academics suggests it might be.

Writing in The Journal of Positive Psychology, Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon present the results of their recent experiments into 'trying to become happier'.

In the first study, two sets of participants listened to 'happy' music. Those who actively tried to feel happier reported the highest level of positive mood afterwards. In the second study, participants listened to a range of 'positive' music over a two-week period; those who were instructed to focus on improving their happiness experienced a greater increase in happiness than those who were told just to focus on the music.

What seems to have made one group so much happier than the other in their respective studies was a combination of actively trying to become happier and using the right methods – in this case, listening to happy music.

Ferguson and Sheldon's important findings challenge earlier studies suggesting that actually trying to become happier was, in fact, counterproductive. "[Our] results suggest that without trying, individuals may not experience higher positive changes in their well-being," they write. "Thus, practitioners and individuals interested in interventions might consider the motivational as an important facet of improving well-being."

And that's definitely something worth thinking about.

More information: Ferguson, Y. and Sheldon, K. Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies, The Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2012.747000

Related Stories

Trying to be happier works when listening to upbeat music

date May 14, 2013

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 ...

Recommended for you

Psychologist finds link between PTSD and prison

date May 29, 2015

Americans who spend time in prison are nearly twice as likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than those who don't, according to a new study by UWM psychology professor Shawn Cahill and his graduate ...

The new normal? Addressing gun violence in America

date May 28, 2015

Article Spotlight features summaries written in collaboration with authors of recently published articles by the Journals Program of the American Psychological Association. The articles are nominated by the editors as noteworthy ...

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.