Musical selection for the Сheerful Mind Holiday

Towards the end of winter, many of us feel sad and gloomy as the long, cold days bring sad thoughts to our hearts. Thus, the Сheerful Mind Holiday that is marked in the beggining of February, is the proper time to celebrate. It is a day to cheer ourselves up by doing the things we like best. If music makes you happy, you should listen to all your favorite songs and if you are happy when you dance, then the 4th of February is one of those days when you just need to dance! Emotions, physical well-being, mood are the prism through which we see the world. If there is no mood, then nothing is right for us, nothing pleases us. The quality of our life depends on the mood in which we wake up, spend the day and go to sleep. Our body is very wise -- it has the ability to change our mood through our senses within a second. Music is a great way to lift your mood.

In 2015, neuroscientist Jacob Jolij from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands conducted a series of scientific studies to find out what characteristics a piece of music should have in order to puta person in a better mood. In other words, what should a "happy" song be? It turns out that there are songs that can make just anyone happy. According to one Dutch neuroscientist, most happy songs have some distinctive traits in common. Several years ago, Dr. Jacob Jolij—at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands—was asked to examine a list of favorite songs. Although not a peer reviewed study, his investigation discovered several trends among the given examples of perky music. “Happy” or “feel good” songs have significantly faster tempos than average pop music, they tend to have cheerful lyrics, and are more often in a major key.

When Jolij was first approached to examine the data set of happy songs, he had to take a qualitative method to analyze trends within the set. As a researcher, he emphasized on his website that what makes a happy song is highly personal and strongly depends on social context and personal associations. The surveyed people for personal reasons chose each song in the data set, but analysis of musical technicalities provided some hard data. The songs averaged 140 to 150 beats per minute, a tempo that’s about 20 or more beats higher than the average pop tune. This upbeat rhythm probably subliminally reenergizes listeners. The surveyed songs were also much more likely to be in a major key rather than a minor key. Jolij commented that a major third key, specifically, is received as a happy, confident sound.

Jolij also examined the lyrics. He described most happy songs as having either cheery, nonsensical lyrics or lyrics, which described happy events and positive, fun emotions. Parties, love, dancing—all are good fodder for a happy tune. Jolij then took all his findings and combined them into a mathematic formula. Not a rigorous predictor of happy songs, the formula mostly served to test his theories on tempo and tones. Tested on songs designated as happy by Dutch listeners, the algorithm continued to support the trends Jolij discovered.

While most scholarly research ends in journal article, this project culminates in a playlist by Jolij of 10 of the happiest songs from past decades. This list is sure to brighten your day with some throwback tunes.

Some of the songs on this list were included in the musical selection recorded from music media stored the museum Collection Sound Library. Take a listen and be the judge for yourself. These compositions are sure to brighten up your day.

Music is a universal tool to improve our mood and create a positive outlook on life. Listen to your favorite music and be happy!