For centuries, people have found that music helps them to boost energy and mood–some even claim that music helps them heal more quickly. Now, new research shows that listening to music can lift (or reinforce) your mood and ultimately leading to a greater quality of life.

Researchers from the University of Missouri concluded that upbeat music lifts a person’s mood. Participants in their study were told to improve their moods but only succeeded in doing so after listening to the upbeat songs of Copeland, as opposed to the sadder tunes of Stravinsky. However, when other participants were not told to improve their moods while music played, they remained the same emotionally. As one researcher remarked, “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.

There’s more to this concept than simply being able to tell if a song is happy or sad. In fact, our brains actually respond differently to happy and sad music. Even short pieces of happy or sad music can affect us. A study found that participants matched the neutral expression to the mood of the short piece of music that was playing. This happened with other facial expressions, but mostly it occurred with the neutral ones.

It’s not just happy or sad pieces of music that affect us. Ambient noise can improve creativity as well. Some people love loud music in the background while they organize their days, deciding what to do and when. However, loud music may not be the best music to listen to while you’re attempting to think. In fact, it turns out that a moderate noise level is perfect for creativity. 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 interferes with our processing, which actually heightens our abstract processing, leading to more creative thinking. In other words, when we struggle (but not too much) to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches. With high noise levels, it becomes too difficult to process anything because the noise is overwhelming.

So stick to moderate levels when you’re looking for heightened creativity, and choose more upbeat music to improve your mood–it truly works.

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