Music therapy has been used for centuries as a way to restore energy, improve mood, and even help the body heal more rapidly. New research supports this–research illustrates that music can absolutely improve your mood, which leads to a general boost in your 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. Other participants, who simply listened to the music without attempting to change their mood, didn’t report an increase in happiness. 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. This concept is seen during a study wherein participants looked at neutral faces while listening to happy or sad music.
Of course, it’s usually pretty simple to tell if the music is happy or sad, but there is more to it. In fact, our brains actually respond differently to happy and sad music. It doesn’t matter how short or long the piece of music is. 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. However, loud music may not be the best music to listen to while you’re attempting to think. In fact, it turns out that a moderate noise level is perfect for creativity. And ambient music is better for the creative process than even low music with lyrics. Moderate noise levels actually make processing more difficult, which in turn promotes abstact processing, resulting in higher creativity. In other words, when we struggle (but not too much) to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches. This is because loud noise overwhelms us and makes it too difficult to approach anything creatively–or at all.
So stick to moderate levels when you’re looking for heightened creativity, and choose more upbeat music to improve your mood–it truly works.