Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies

September 10, 2013

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.

Explore further: Happiness model developed by MU researcher could help people go from good to great

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

Acts of kindness can make you happier

January 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.

Trying to be happier works when listening to upbeat music

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

In analyzing a scene, we make the easiest judgments first

September 3, 2015

Psychology researchers who have hypothesized that we classify scenery by following some order of cognitive priorities may have been overlooking something simpler. New evidence suggests that the fastest categorizations our ...

Forensic examiners pass the face matching test

September 1, 2015

The first study to test the skills of FBI agents and other law enforcers who have been trained in facial recognition has provided a reassuring result - they perform better than the average person or even computers on this ...

0 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.