One of the simplest ways to feel happier right now is to recall a happy memory.
Re-experiencing a happy moment from the past can give you just the required boost.
And music can help you do that — so long as you choose the right type.
New research suggests both happy and peaceful music helps you recall positive memories.
But, if you listen to music that is sad or emotionally scary, it will help bring back the wrong sort of memories.
It seems that upbeat, happy music, in particular, gives the quickest access to happy memories.
The study’s authors write:
“…positive and highly arousing musical cues resulted in the quickest access to memories, and we observed a link between the emotional valence, but not the arousal, levels of the cue and the accessed memories.”
It might not be a surprise that happy music helps bring back good memories.
But there was one surprise: the type of happy music was important.
Peaceful music brought back the most vivid, positive memories.
Peaceful music is typically positive but not too exciting.
As Dr Signy Sheldon, the study’s first author, explained:
“High cue arousal led to lower memory vividness and uniqueness ratings, but both high arousal and positive cues were associated with memories rated as more social and energetic.”
Randomly played music — both positive and negative — was also successful in bringing back vivid memories.
Dr Julia Donahue, who co-authored, the study, said:
“It is possible that when cues were presented in a random fashion, the emotional content of the cue directed retrieval to a similar memory via shared emotional information.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Memory & Cognition (Sheldon & Donohue, 2017).