How Music Influences Moods

For centuries, people have found that music helps them to boost energy and mood–some even claim that music helps them heal more quickly. Now, new research shows that listening to music can lift (or reinforce) your mood and ultimately leading to a greater quality of life.

University of Missouri researchers found that upbeat music is sometimes all it takes to boost a person’s mood. Their study showed that participants, who were told to improve their mood, felt happier after listening to the upbeat music of Copeland, as opposed to the more morose songs of Stravinsky. However, when other participants were not told to improve their moods while music played, they remained the same emotionally. Summed up by one researcher, “People could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination.” Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, happy and sad music affects how we interpret neutral faces, according to a recent study.

Of course, it’s usually pretty simple to tell if the music is happy or sad, but there is more to it. In fact, it is our brains that are responding differently to the happy or sad music. The length of the piece of music is irrelevant. A study found that participants matched the neutral expression to the mood of the short piece of music that was playing. This also occurred with other facial expressions, but it happened most often with those that were more neutral.

It’s not just happy or sad pieces of music that affect us. Ambient noise can improve creativity as well. Many people prefer to listen to loud music while they run through errands or enjoy their hobbies. But if you’re doing creative work, you may reconsider the loud music as background noise. In fact, creative tasks such as writing, painting, or building something are best set to music at a moderate noise level. Actually, even more than low noise levels, ambient noise apparently enhances creativity and doesn’t put us off the way high levels of noise do. This is because moderate noise interferes with our processing, which actually heightens our abstract processing, leading to more creative thinking. Put more simply, if we need to put more effort into processing than we are used to doing, we end up coming up with more creative ways to do so. With high noise levels, it becomes too difficult to process anything because the noise is overwhelming.

So for a more happy mood, look to happier music, and for heightened creativity, aim for a moderate level of ambient noise to up your creative approach.

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