Research Says People Can Influence Their Happiness


The attainment of happiness is an ideal held by many in a various cultures and backgrounds. A survey in 2008 which looked to various nations suggested that happiness was a deeply held value. While such contentment is often sought by others through the means of love, relationships, families, careers, education, religion, hobbies, and even therapy, often times happiness cannot be obtained through these outlets and many still stress to maintain and continue their complex search for content. However, two new experiments published in The Journal of Positive Psychology says procuring happiness may be much simpler than once believed. The new research suggests that people can simply influence their own happiness.

Lead authors of the new study, Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon, suggest that individuals can simply think their way to happiness by wanting it deeply enough. Also a key secret to bliss? Playing positive inducing music. To support the claim, they applied two different experiments using positive music and thinking skills to induce happiness in their participants. In the first study, researchers assigned 167 college student participants to focus and attempt to boost their mood by simply listening to Copland’s, “Rodeo” tune. One group was assigned to set a goal to make themselves feel happier while the music played, whereas the second group had been asked to withhold from seeking to alter their moods.

They found that those who had been instructed to think about happiness whilst simultaneously listening to positive music reported higher levels of happiness compared to the second group who had been instructed to sustain from happiness while listening to the same music.

The second experiment took place over a two-week focus group period which involved 68 college students who were asked to listen to nearly 12 minutes of positive music. Similarly, groups were split into two with one group being asked to alter their mood while the other had not been asked to attempt to be happier. Likewise, the same results had been found from the initial first experiment with the research suggesting that people can influence their happiness.

Ferguson and Sheldon suggest that happiness can be reached through simple intentional behavior. “While we may not be able to change our genetic makeup or specific life circumstances,” noted the study, “We may be able to direct our intentional behavior in such ways that are beneficial to our well-being.” The idea of individuals purposefully seeking the idea of happiness through means of optimism, self-help material and even music could be the answer in heightening one’s overall well-being.

The study goes on to note that happiness is often associated with better physical and mental well-being, healthy relationships, and lower rates of overall health problems. But even as the research suggest that people can influence their happiness, they also add that extra support from various activities (like exercise and social interaction) are key in obtaining this happiness.

Written by Annie Elizabeth Martin

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