What’s the best mood boosting music for the winter months?
October 28, 2022
As the nights get darker and the days get colder, what should we be listening to if we want to stay upbeat?
With British Summer Time coming to an end and the clocks going back this weekend, it’s natural that a lot of our moods are going to be impacted. The shorter days, less daylight and colder weather can make it harder to stay upbeat - seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK.
At Startle, we know that music can make a huge difference to how you feel and behave. It can be incredibly cathartic; it can provide you with comfort, nostalgia, or even lift your spirits. It can have an impact on our hormones, so it’s no surprise that it can change our outlook on the day. We looked into the best types of music to listen to if you’re feeling down with the darker evenings, and even suggested a few of our favourites.
Can sad music sometimes help?
Sometimes, when you’re in a sad mood, there’s nothing better than putting on some sad music and having a self-pity cry. It’s a way to initiate catharsis, and to trigger nostalgic emotions that comfort us. If you’re someone who struggles to articulate how you feel, which can be particularly hard if you suffer with SAD and your mood is out of your control, listening to someone vocalise how you feel can allow you to relate and feel seen.
Listening to sad music when you’re feeling down can trigger many different psychological processes that themselves are pleasurable, such as letting go of pent-up emotions and releasing dopamine, a chemical that we generally associate with pleasure and reward. The music can act as a companion to our sadness, even if it doesn’t necessarily dig us out of the bad mood.
What type of music instantly cheers us up?
If you’re not looking to wallow in your sadness and you want an instant pick me up, there are certain characteristics of songs that are better suited.
In Western music, major and minor chords have often been the key to distinguishing between joy and sorrow in music. A group of scientists compiled 90,000 popular English-language guitar songs recorded from the 1950s to the 2010s across five regions of the world. Then, they looked at how the chords matched the song lyrics. Each song got a happiness score, based on data that ranks 10,000 of the most common English words for positive and negative emotions. They found that minor chords were linked with unhappy words, and major chords were linked with happy ones.
Interestingly, the most positive emotions were conveyed by seventh chords, a triad of notes with an extra note on top that changes the sound. Major and minor sevenths were more prevalent in happier songs.
The tempo of a song can also impact the difference it makes to your mood. Listening to upbeat songs can bring about positive emotions - research by Signy Sheldon and Julia Donahue of McGill University in Canada proved that when people listen to upbeat music, they can recall happy memories within a shorter period of time.
What about songs that just have emotional meaning to us?
Sometimes it’s not about the musical theory behind a song and whether it can cheer us up, it can simply be the emotional significance it has. When we’re not feeling 100%, we might press play on a song that feels familiar to us.
The study of Music Evoked Autobiographical Memories (MEAMs) looks at when we hear a song and we’re taken back to a specific time, place, or moment. The memories are often coupled with strong emotions, mostly positive, and can provide us comfort when times are tough. A feeling of familiarity can ground us and make us feel safe, even when we’re down. Like a musical hot water bottle.
What songs do our team listen to when they’re feeling down?
So with the clocks going back and the dark nights setting in, make sure to take time and look after yourself with the help of good music. Whether that be a sad song to make us feel less alone, an upbeat one to raise our energy levels, or a familiar one that feels like a hug, they can be a useful tool to help battle seasonal moods.