It’s commonly held that not only does music up your energy level, but that it helps you heal more quickly and significantly improves your mood. In fact, studies now show that music can either improve or reinforce your mood–which gives you a better 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. Interestingly, other participants who weren’t told to impove their mood did not experience a boost in happiness while listening to music. 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.” Happy or sad music even affects how we interpret neutral faces, according to the results of a recent study.
We can usually tell if a piece of music is particularly happy or sad, but this isn’t just a subjective idea that comes from how it makes us feel. Our brains actually respond differently to the happy and sad music, making the process much more subjective. The length of the piece of music is irrelevant. During the study, people were more likely to project happy or sad moods onto the neutral faces to match the short piece of music they were listening to. This also occurred with other facial expressions, but it happened most often with those that were more neutral.
Music doesn’t just affect our ability to read expressions: music such as ambient noise can improve creativity. Some people love loud music in the background while they organize their days, deciding what to do and when. 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 levels increase processing difficulty, which in turn promotes abstract processing, leading to 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.