Everybody loves at least one genre of music, and it’s very rare to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy listening to music occasionally. Listening to and enjoying music is a universal and human experience. Music can affect your life in a number of ways, but most of all, it can affect how you feel in immediate situations. Many studies have investigated the effect of music on our emotions and happiness. When this connection between music and happiness is understood, it can predict which songs will make you happy, and explain why certain music already does.
How Does Music Affect Us?
Music is very important to many people in many different ways. Humans have a strong relationship with music in general because of the way that music affects our feelings, our thinking, and our emotional state. Music therapy is a branch of psychological practice that uses music’s many facets to achieve therapeutic goals for patients. Music therapy is based on the understanding that music, in all forms, can have dramatic effects on our physical, emotional, social, and mental health. Music therapy is currently used to combat the negative effects of depression, dementia, amnesia, schizophrenia, and other mood disorders. Music therapy can also help lessen the You may be vaguely familiar with these effects if you have a favorite song that can completely turn around your bad mood, or perhaps a sadder, slower song that is difficult for you to listen to because it can bring your mood down.
Psychoacoustics, specifically, is the branch of music therapy that studies our psychological responses to the music that we hear. Psychoacoustics explains how we hear music as sound waves that travel through the air and into our ears. As we hear musical sounds, they travel to our brains, where they cause activity and spikes in our neurons, sometimes referred to as nerve impulses. Hearing music causes a chemical reaction in our brains, so it is no surprise that music has the ability to change our moods. The manner in which our brains interpret music depends on a few key aspects of the sound.
Scientists have studied how we react differently to so-called sad and happy songs. In a general sense, songs with a slow tempo, and which are written or sung in a minor key, are considered sad songs, while songs with faster tempos, written or sung in major keys, are considered happy songs. Studies have found that hearing happy songs can raise heart rate, lower stress levels, and increase immunity to illness. Sad songs, on the other hand, can lower heart rate and cause spikes in blood pressure. You may already be familiar with the phenomenon in which your heart rate adjusts to try to match as closely as possible the tempo of the music you’re hearing. This often happens when people listen to music while they exercise; an upbeat, fast-tempo song will keep your heart rate up and make cardio activity slightly more manageable, while hearing a slow song in the middle of your workout can make you start to drag and lose motivation. According to some research, hearing music of any kind can trigger the places in the brain that some drug use triggers, creating a potential for dependency on music. In a less scientific way, music can affect your emotions if you associate a particular song with a very happy or a very sad memory. Hearing a song like that again can cause those strong feelings to resurface, even if no other particular aspect of the memory is being recreated. These findings on music and happiness have found such a strong link between the two that it could someday impact the way certain diseases and ailments are treated.
Songs to Increase Happiness
Since music has been scientifically proven to increase feelings of happiness and well being in listeners, there is a nearly unlimited number of songs that you can listen to in order to boost those good feelings for yourself. These songs can be found by paying attention to a few key aspects of what studies have identified as happy music.
The first kind of music that can increase happiness is music that is upbeat, or has a fast tempo. These are songs that you can easily dance to, songs that make you want to be more active, and songs that increase your heart rate when you hear them. You’ll usually hear such music in public places, like stores and shops, bars, and restaurants. Songs like these exist in nearly all of modern musical history. The rock and roll genre has a multitude of up-tempo songs that can create feelings of happiness. These include Elvis Presley’s “Little Less Conversation,” “Back in Black” by AC/DC, “Sympathy for The Devil” by The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” “Magic Bus” by The Who, and “Barracuda” by Heart. Modern music, including rap and pop, frequently features fast tempos that make listeners happy. Rap artists who perform such songs include Drake, Kanye West, Gorillaz, Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., Outkast, Childish Gambino, Macklemore, MIA, and Nicki Minaj. Fast tempo pop song examples include “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars, “Every Time We Touch” by Cascada, “S&M” by Rihanna, “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, and “Pump It” by The Black Eyed Peas. Big band and swing music frequently features fast tempos, as does old school hip-hop and electronic dance music.
The second kind of music that can create feelings of happiness is music that is written in a major key rather than a minor key. Major key music has been proven to lift people out of sad or negative moods time and time again, while sadder songs can enable people to linger with bad feelings, or even become more depressed or unsatisfied. Needless to say, there are plenty of examples of songs written in a major key, spanning all musical genres and time periods. Some examples include “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations, “Brick House” by The Commodores, “Do You Love Me” by The Contours, “Firework” by Katy Perry, “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band, “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green, “Get Ready” by The Temptations, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, “Smooth” by Santana, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “Walkin’ On Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves, “Uptown Girl,” by Billy Joel, “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars, and “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes.
A final kind of music that will increase happiness is music with uplifting, positive, or happy lyrics. These songs are typically upbeat and written in a major key, but even those that aren’t can contribute to feelings of happiness due to what the lyrics mean and how they resonate with the listener. These songs are most often about romantic love, but could also be about hanging out with friends, enjoying a party, or could just be a positive meditation on life in general. Uplifting songs include “At Last” by Etta James, “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Just The Two of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr., “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, “Turn Your Love Around” by George Benson, “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “L.O.V.E.” by Nat King Cole, “Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli, “Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, and “Soul Man” by The Blues Brothers.
Personal Music Therapy
These guidelines can be used to browse or purchase new music that will increase your happiness, or to organize a personal playlist that you can use to your advantage when you aren’t feeling your brightest. Selecting songs with fast tempos, songs written in major keys, and songs with positive or inspirational lyrics will put a positive spin on your day whenever you listen to them. Playlists like this can be put to great use when you are working out, taking a walk or a long drive, or when you’re just hanging out by yourself and are in need of a pick-me-up.
Being familiar with some music theory, as well as with the concept of music therapy, can help you to better understand the way music impacts your thoughts, your mood, and your life in general. Simply listening to some music that’s proven to lift your spirits could have a big influence on your daily level of happiness. Whether you’re enjoying some happy music while you go for a run, or just playing it in the background while you clean the house, positive music can put a definitively positive spin on your day. Music is a beautiful part of the human experience, and a developed understanding of music is a valuable skill.