Lead author Yuna Ferguson, who conducted the study while a University of Missouri doctoral student in psychological science, said the research points to ways people can actively improve their moods.
"Our work provides support for what many people already do -- listen to music to improve their moods," Ferguson said in a statement. "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."
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 Aaron Copland, as opposed to the more somber Igor 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 with control participants who only listened to music.
Ferguson's work corroborated earlier findings by Ferguson's doctoral adviser and co-author of the current study, Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri.
The findings were published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.