A recent research at the University of Missouri has discovered that an individual can indeed successfully try to be happier, especially when cheery music aids the process.
This research points to ways that people can actively improve their moods and corroborates earlier MU research.
"Our work provides support for what many people already do - listen to music to improve their moods," said lead author Yuna Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an MU doctoral student in psychological science.
"Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction," she explained.
In two studies by Ferguson, participants successfully improved their moods in the short term and boosted their overall happiness over a two week period.
During the first study, participants improved their mood after being instructed to attempt to do so, but only if they listened to the upbeat music of Copland, as opposed to the more somber Stravinsky.
Other participants, who simply listened to the music without attempting to change their mood, also didn't report a change in happiness. In the second study, participants reported higher levels of happiness after two weeks of lab sessions in which they listened to positive music while trying to feel happier, compared to control participants who only listened to music.
However, Ferguson who is now assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University Shenango, noted that for people to put her research into practice, they must be wary of too much introspection into their mood or constantly asking, "Am I happy yet?"
"Rather than focusing on how much happiness they've gained and engaging in that kind of mental calculation, people could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination," said Ferguson.
The study was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.