In the movies, background music is used to help control which emotions we feel at different key points in the film. In real life, I like to think the tunes I select on my iPod on a given day affect how I feel, too.
The other day, for example, I caught myself listening to rather melancholy songs. They were some of my favorite songs, but as I was listening to them, I was thinking about graduating and leaving friends behind. As Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and “Tuesday’s Gone” played on repeat, I began to think how music can affect your mood.
Flash forward to the next day, where the sun was shining and birds were singing. I listened to a healthy mix of songs by The Beach Boys and Bob Marley, and with the combination of beautiful weather, my mood turned more upbeat and lively.
It’s that simple: My music choices can change depending on how I feel.
In 2013, University of Missouri research showed that “an individual can indeed successfully try to be happier, especially when cheery music aids the process.”
“Our work provides support for what many people already do – listen to music to improve their moods,” said, who was the lead author of the study while she was a MU doctoral student, according to the university’s website. “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.
In two studies conducted by Ferguson, the moods of participants were successfully improved during a two-week period. In the first study, participants improved their mood after being instructed to listen to upbeat music rather than somber music. Other participants, who listened to music without attempting to improve their mood, did not report a change in happiness.
The second study reported higher levels of happiness after just two weeks of sessions where the participants listened to positive music, while trying to feel happier rather than control participants in the first study.
We’ve all been guilty of listening to a sad song when we’re down. “Let it Be” or “Mad World” will really get to you. We also use music as a coping strategy, so whether you’re going through a bad break-up or failed an exam, try to focus on more upbeat music — creating self-positivity, rather than self-pitying in gloom.
Music can move us in any emotional moment, and it can also dig up underlying emotions and teach us about ourselves. Never stop exploring the magic of music.
Contact Megan Brown at [email protected]