Music and Happiness: How Does It Affect Our Emotions?

“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.”

This quote, popularly attributed to Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, sums up what human experience has been telling us for centuries and what science is now getting better at explaining: Music is happiness, and it transcends cultures, space, and time. Music is universally understood.

Researchers have revealed strong links between music and happiness, suggesting that music not only makes you emotive but also correlates positively with overall health, emotional wellbeing, and productivity.

Music and Happiness

Music resonates at such a deep level in humans that it helps us emote, work more efficiently, and feel better in ways we might not even understand. Studies into the relationship between music and our emotions have revealed fascinating findings:

Mood Music

The use of music to lift spirits, enhance a celebration, and unite people to achieve a common goal is a practice that traces back to when humans first made music. In fact, music is so rooted in human nature that a Harvard Studyhad participants listen to a 14-second sound clip and found that people around the globe could differentiate which songs were lullabies, dancing songs, or healing songs regardless of the songs’ cultural origin. So what does this mean? That mood playlist you have queued up for Saturday morning chores or getting that work report done or relaxing with a book is backed by science, even if you didn’t know it.

Music and Health

The history of music therapy dates to the times of Plato and Aristotle. However, in the 1940s, after the World Wars, studies demonstrated that music produced notable physical and emotional responses in the patients at veteran hospitals. The patient response was so remarkable that it led to the development of an entire college program devoted to training musicians to work specifically in hospitals. In 2013, the Journal of Positive Psychology reported the findings of a study that concluded that just two weeks of listening to upbeat music is enough to boost your mood and levels of happiness. And it is not only happy music that makes a difference. Listening to sad music as you process your hardships has been shown to produce feelings of comfort and pleasure for most listeners, according to a joint study between Durham University (United Kingdom) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland).

Music and the Mind

One of the best-known effects of music’s influence on the mind is the “Mozart effect.” This phenomenon was documented by researchers at the University of California who discovered that when students listened to just 10 minutes of one of Mozart’s piano sonatas, they did better on the administered IQ test questions. The researchers concluded from this (and other variations of the experiment) that “listening to some forms of music acts as an exercise that warms up selected brain cells, allowing them to process information more efficiently.” This study further found that learning to play an instrument makes this benefit more prolonged.

balloons floating in the sky

Does Music Make You Happy?

Music makes you happy; ask anyone, and they’re likely to agree. The use of music as a painkiller in music therapy, a stress reliever, a mood booster, and aid for processing grief is well-documented both by the studies highlighted above and multiple others.

And you don’t need to worry about the short-term nature of the Mozart effect! Music therapy has been so demonstrably beneficial in medical applications that therapists now use it to help patients regain memories, stimulate new neural connections, improve active attention, and process trauma.

Why Does Music Make You Happy?

We can all agree that music makes you happy. That’s why characters on television and humans around the world ‘dance it out’ after a long day at work. If you have ever asked yourself, “Why does music make me happy?” you wouldn’t be alone. Scientists have been asking that question as well, and lucky for us, the answers are as enlightening as they are fascinating.

As with other activities that humans find enjoyable, such as exercise, listening to music stimulates the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine, or ‘the feel-good hormone,’ is a key component of the human pleasure system and is released by your brain whenever you listen to music that moves you. At a chemical level, this sets off a reinforcement reaction in your body. Your brain records this experience and saves it as something that you should seek out and repeat so that your brain will release more dopamine. This probably explains why music has been around for so much of our history — it begs us to replay it.

Music happiness happens at a physical level. When your ear canals receive sound waves, they transmit them into the inner ear. There, they are transformed into miniature electric currents and then transmitted to your brain. Different parts of the brain decode the rhythm, pitch, timbre, and emotion of the musical sound. Once your brain interprets the sounds, your body can feel that spine-tingling effect of music that makes you happy. Additionally, music activates the brain’s motor centers, which is why you feel like dancing when you hear music.

neon sign saying "good vibes only"

Music That Makes You Happy

The internet and streaming services are chock full of happiness music playlists. Sometimes, they’re referred to with keywords such as  ‘good vibes,’  ‘feel-good,’ or ‘uplifting.’ We’ve found some songs that are repeated on playlist after playlist and should be on yours!

1. "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves

2. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown

3. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

4. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

5. "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake

6. "Good Life" by One Republic

7. "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift

8. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin

9. "Pocket Full of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield

10. "Juice" by Lizzo

11. "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson

12. “New Shoes” by Paulo Nutini

13. “Hey Ya” by Outkast

14. “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty

15. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire

Happy Music, Happy People

Now that we know why music makes you happy, it’s only logical to talk about how to incorporate more music and happiness into our lives. Businesses interested in giving their clients a complete sensory experience have already begun to integrate music into their operations, even when it is not directly related to their core product or service. This practice of designing environments to induce certain behaviors in clients, known as atmospherics, was coined in 1973 by a business professor named Philip Kotler.

Music in Stores

A 1982 British study examined retailers who played unfamiliar but slow and soothing business music in their stores. They found that not only did the customers stay longer on average in the stores, but they were also willing to spend more money. The researchers concluded that the customers did not feel rushed, and therefore, felt like they had thoroughly evaluated their options.

Music at the Gym

Multiple other studies have demonstrated that when music is played in an environment that requires repetitive tasks or endurance, participants report feeling more motivated, having increased coordination, and pushing themselves further. When applied to gym scenarios, all these benefits and more have been reported. Therefore, gyms would benefit from playing ‘killer jams,’ which are usually fast-paced, upbeat, and familiar to their clients. It follows that when a gym-goer feels like their session was worthwhile, they are more likely to maintain their gym membership.

Music in Offices or Schools

A 2014 report on office-based experiments revealed that more than 85% of participants produced their most accurate test results when listening to music. 81% completed their work more quickly when music was playing. The performance of the participants varied depending on the type of music played. However, the results overwhelmingly showed that music was better than no music. These results were so convincing that business owners interviewed in a related study said that they believed playing music would lead to higher sales and better service for their clients because their employees would be happier.

Press Play!

With all this research, it could not be more clear that listening to the right music at the right time of day can boost the desired ambiance of any space, motivate positive emotions, and contribute to providing a great experience. This is a guiding belief at Cloud Cover Music, where we work with you to understand your needs and how we can address them through our business music service. We want to help you play music while staying true to your brand in the way that works best for both your customers and employees.

Try our music for business platform free for 14-Days. You’ll gain access to licensed, ad-free music that you can monitor and control for all of your business locations. Plus, we feature a messaging plan where you can customize your overhead announcements. Sign up today!


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