'Happy' songs can impact emotional well-being, boost confidence
Published Saturday, May 24, 2014 11:04PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 24, 2014 11:39PM EDT
If you’re happy and you know it – well, it might have something to do with the good vibes climbing the pop music charts this year.
Led by Pharrell Williams’ falsetto jam “Happy,” upbeat tunes have been a hallmark of 2014. With hundreds of millions of YouTube views and countless other covers and lip-syncs, the seven-time Grammy winner’s cheer is infectious.
The song, which has become an anthem for freedom and joy, made headlines around the world this week when six young Iranians were arrested for filming themselves dancing along to the tune. Officials called the video vulgar. The group has since been released. The incident prompted Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to tweet “Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.”
The catchy hooks and positive messages, heard in chart-toppers like Bastille’s “Pompeii” and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” can have a tangible effect on your head aside from making it bob along to the rhythm. According to psychotherapist Stacey Dombrowsky, a chemical release in the brain causes that bubbly feeling to stick around after the track ends.
"Music actually raises dopamine within the brain,” Dombrowsky said in an interview with CTV News. “Music has a lot to do with that happy feeling. Almost like when we see food or think about sex."
As an addictions counsellor, Dombrowsky uses music to “rewire” the brains of her patients.
"I teach people to find their voice so that they can learn about who they are,” she said. “So singing has a lot to do with that."
Motivational speaker and musician Maria Hawkins says when she gets a class of students singing songs like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” she can see a change almost immediately.
"The look of joy and discovery on their faces is unbelievable,” she said. “You see the light come on – ‘ping!’”
Hawkins says teaching through music helps students gain the skills and confidence they might not otherwise find in school.
And it’s not just those stuck in a classroom that could use the perk-up. Hawkins says everyone would benefit from a bit more musical happiness.
“Sometimes we forget to encourage our kids why it is they come to school," she said. “One of the things they need -- and we all need for our emotional well-being -- is joy in our lives.”
With a report from CTV News’ Peter Akman