Psychology of Music And Happiness

Music and dance are perhaps the best-known mood elevators known to the world. And if you add friends and food to the experience, then it becomes a ‘blast’ of happiness. But how does this mix of Music, Dance, Friends, and Food turns your head into a swirling swim pool of joyful sensations?

Heady Mix: Music, Dance, Friends, Food

October is a season of music and dance in many parts of the world. Europe has Unsound, Donau, and Norberg, while Norway has Ekko, and Graz, Austria has Elevate. In the Americas, Denver hosts the Great American Techno Fest, Mexico is hosting MutekMx. Then there is Unsound in Poland, and Robot in Bologna, Italy. And Amsterdam has Ade.

music happiness

Music and Happiness

US psychologists Ferguson and Sheldon, in a 2012 study, showed students who listened to just 12 minutes of “happy” music while trying to be feel happier experienced higher elevations in the mood. In the second part of their study, they instructed participants to try to become happier intentionally. These participants reported higher increases in happiness after listening to positively attractive music during five separate visits over two weeks. These studies show that listening to positive music may be an effective way to improve happiness, particularly when combined with an intention to become happier.

Dance and Happiness

When there’s music that makes us want to dance, it is an experience that is called a groove. Groove is defined as “the sensation of wanting to move some part of your body in relation to some aspect of the music,” as per Madison (2006).

Janata et al. (2012), asked many participants to describe this sensation of the groove in their own words. Based on their most frequently used words, they arrived at this definition: “Groove is the aspect of the music that induces a pleasant sense of wanting to move along with the music.”

The surprising thing is that groove is experienced even when the listeners are presented with unfamiliar music.

And once you start dancing, it becomes a physical exercise giving you the happiness benefits of exercise activity. “Exercise generates the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. Exercise increases the brain’s learning and memory capacities.” (John Ratey, 2008). “People’s mood significantly increased after exercising.” (University of Bristol).

Read more about exercise and happiness:

Friends and Happiness

Friends make us happier. We know this instinctively.

We also seem to believe that those with somewhat a larger circle of friends are happier than others, or at least appear to be so. With these culturally inbred beliefs, when we look towards science for validation, the Positive Psychology researchers have this to say: “We are happier when we are with other people (as compared to when we are alone)—and this holds for all of us, the introverts as well as the extroverts.” They also concluded happier people are more sociable. And the more sociable the people were, the happier they were found to be. It works both ways. A 2012 study suggests that a large circle of friends, averaging around 3 to 6 in number, is the key to well-being in middle life.

Statistical analysis of the Facebook network shows that people who smile tend to have more friends. Smiling gets us an average of one extra friend.

Psychology warns us, we need to pick our friends carefully. We should choose those who are inherently happy – otherwise, we risk their unhappiness spreading to us. Having unhappy friends over time makes us less happy.

Read more about friendship and happiness.

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Author Bio: Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.


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