5 Ways Music Makes You Happy

Woman in red shirt big headphones listening music mp3. Smiling female model on white. People leisure happiness concept.

We all know how powerful music is and how important it is to our everyday lives. It can lift you up and “soothe the savage beast.” Now through a series of research and studies, science proves what most of us have known all along — music really does make us happy.

Music alleviates your pain

The idea that music can help alleviate pain is not surprising, since the right music can “soothe the soul.” Recently, researchers set out to investigate the effects of music on pain and depression in people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder distinguished by severe musculoskeletal pain, followed by fatigue, sleep and memory and mood issues.

The study published in Science Direct consisted of 60 people who were randomly assigned to either a music intervention group or a control group. Those assigned to music intervention listened to music once a day for four consecutive weeks. Compared to the control group, the group that were assigned music experienced significantly less pain and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another study, published in The National Library of Medicine, researchers set out to evaluate the effects of music therapy on patients undergoing spinal surgery. The study included 60 patients, some of which listened to selected music the evening before surgery. Others — the control group — did not listen to any music. Patients’ were then measured for anxiety and pain. Researchers found that the group that had listened to music had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

Music gives you pleasure

Do you ever wonder why we get so much pleasure listening to a great song or musical score? Apparently, when you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It also helps control movement and emotional responses, and it allows us to look past the rewards and actually work toward attaining them.

Previous research published in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that when we listen to music, the experience can be so pleasurable that even the thought of listening to music can cause a release of dopamine.

Music balances your emotions

Music evokes many emotions. And according to a study conducted by the Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Sweden, that’s the number one reason we value it so much.

When we feel bad, we normally look for pleasant experiences or distracting activities to alleviate our negative feelings. But when we listen to music, it seems that what we’re actually looking for is to match our current emotions, suggests a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Who would have thought that listening to a sad love song could make us happy?

Music improves your mood

We all know how effective an upbeat song can have on our mood. Now research shows us that listening to music not only improves mood, but ultimately contributes to a greater quality of life. In fact, you can successfully improve your mood and overall happiness in just two weeks, suggests a study published  in The Journal of Positive Psychology, but only if that’s what you want.

Study participants who chose to improve their mood through upbeat music reported more happiness than those who just listened to music — for the sake of listening — without consciously trying to alter their mood. What these studies show us is that listening to positive music can make you happier, particularly when it’s combined with an intention to be happier.

Music makes you see the world differently

Interestingly, research published in PLOS suggests that music, whether happy or sad, has the power to influence your perception of the world. It seems that study participants who were asked to identify happy and sad faces, while listening to either happy or sad music, were more apt to correctly identify the facial expression when it matched the feeling of the music.

What’s more interesting is that participants often reported seeing a happy expression on the face they were shown when happy music was playing and reported seeing a sad expression when sad music was playing, even when there was no definable expression shown. This means that music may directly alter the way we perceive the world.

What is really telling about this research is that we’re built to identify with the music and the songs we listen to — whether uplifting or sad. Music is extremely influential. So it stands to reason that through positive music, you can create a happier and more fulfilling life.

—Katherine Marko

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