Well-Being with Whitney: Pursuing Happiness: Music

One of the simplest ways to boost your happiness is by listening to upbeat music.

A University of Missouri study found in 2013 that people who listened to upbeat music experienced rushes of the neurotransmitter dopamine — which is linked to happy feelings —¬† in their brains. Music has such a powerful effect on mood that music therapy can help treat depression.

Well, that helps explain why one of my guilty pleasures is listening to disco music! Disco doesn’t get much respect musically because it’s so over-the-top corny. But it’s full of relentlessly positive beats. Hearing even a few seconds of a disco song makes me feel as carefree as I felt in my girlhood, when my idea of ultimate fun was roller skating at my local rink to the latest disco tunes. While I no longer roller skate regularly (and thankfully, I no longer wear antenna headbands featuring smiley faces), I still love listening to disco music for fun.

No matter what your opinion of disco music is, I challenge you to listen to classic hits like “Y.M.C.A.”, “I Will Survive”, and “Funky Town” without cracking a smile.

Upbeat, disco-like rhythms remain popular in today’s music, as evidenced by songs like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” The chorus of another recent upbeat song — “Happy” by Pharrell Williams — urges listeners to “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth” and “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”

While in Los Angeles (the music industry’s biggest production site), I visited Warner Brothers Studios (whose record label represents the discographies of artists ranging from rockers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the incomparable Prince to show tune greats Michael Bubl√© and Idina Menzel) and learned what elements make up winning upbeat songs — the ones that get the record deals. Rhythm plays an important role, so hot beats are key. Rhymes also matter, so poetic lyrics help. And of course, composing a compelling melody is vital. But the most important element is the “hook.”

A hook is the part of the song that grabs a listener’s attention. Catchy hooks are the song’s sections that replay in your mind after you’ve heard the song play. They’re the parts of the music that you want to sing in the shower or whistle as you walk. Hooks can be anywhere in a song (beginning, middle, or end). All that matters is that they’re memorable, upbeat sections.

There have been countless times in my life so far when I’ve cheered myself up simply by humming a hook from one of my favorite songs. You can probably think of many times you’ve done the same.

My joy level rises even more when I’m using music as a tool to worship God. The band at my church plays plenty of upbeat worship songs with catchy hooks, and not only do I sing along every Sunday, but sometimes I dance a bit, too. Music plays a vital role in heaven, where people are free to experience pure joy. There’s something about music that resonates in our souls at a primal level.

What kind of music do you like to listen to, sing along with, whistle, or hum? Do you play a musical instrument, and if so, which one and why do you enjoy it? When was the last time music made you happy? How can you incorporate music into your life more to experience more joy?

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3 Responses to “Well-Being with Whitney: Pursuing Happiness: Music”

  1. Zoe Johnson says:

    Working on a creative project always makes me feel happy!

  2. Karen B. says:

    So true! I often play the piano to lift my mood after a stressful day at work, and I love the band at my church, which always energizes me and strengthens my sense of joy. You’ve made some great points.

  3. Zoe Johnson says:

    No matter what’s going on in my life, I always feel great when I turn up the car radio to enjoy music while driving. Never fails to put me in a better mood!

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