The Positive Psychology of Music
The Positive Psychology of Music

The Positive Psychology of Music

Dr. John Schinnerer, Guide To Self, Inc.

Positive psychology is the science behind the pursuit of a happy, meaningful, thriving life.

Positive psychology has emerged at the beginning of a new millennium as a movement within psychology and other social sciences targeted at augmenting human strengths and optimizing human functioning. In other words, how we move from simply surviving to truly thriving. It is influencing how we live, how we work, and how we teach our children.

Research is taking off at top universities throughout the world - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Barbara Fredrickson), Claremont Graduate School (Jeanne Nakamura, Mike Csikszentmihalyi), University of Michigan (Chris Peterson, Kim Cameron, Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship), Case Western University (Richard Boyatzis, David Cooperrider), University of Illinois (Ed Diener), University of Pennsylvania (Marty Seligman), and UCLA (Shelley Taylor).

One area that has been scarcely looked at is the point of intersection between positive psychology and music.

What music can we listen to that enables us to thrive, to be more resilient, to be relaxed, to learn best, to be most productive at work?

As music affects each individual slightly differently, there may be no hard and fast answers. Or perhaps there are some generalizations that can be made. In any case, its worth pursuing.

Music heavily influences how we feel.

The mood of a song can influence emotion in a constructive or a destructive direction.

Joyful, energetic songs elicit happiness.

Sad, slow tempo songs elicit sadness.

Emotion influences how we perceive people and things.

Destructive emotions, such as sadness, anger and fear, greatly narrow attention to a sharp point.

Constructive emotions, such as happiness, surprise and curiosity, broaden attention.

When attention is broadened, we take in new information more effectively.

Positive, uplifting music helps to create constructive emotions which aid the learning of new information.

Here are a few positive psychology songs to keep your spirits elevated throughout the day...

Sun Is Shining Bob Marley
Peace Love and Happiness Bob Marley
Dont Worry, Be Happy Bobby McFerrin
Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing) Brenton Brown
Darlin` Do Not Fear Brett Dennen
Jump Jive An Wail Brian Setzer Orchestra
Rock This Town Brian Setzer Orchestra
Child Of Mine Carole King
Peace Train Cat Stevens
Love Can Move Mountains Celine Dion
Im Every Woman Chaka Kahn or Whitney Houston
Zoot Suit Riot Cherry Poppin Daddies
Dreamer Chris Brown

If you have your own suggestions for positive songs, please feel to add them to the list. Email suggestions to

About the Author

Dr. John Schinnerer is in private practice helping individuals learn happiness by mitigating destructive emotions and fostering constructive emotions. His practice is located in the Danville San Ramon Medical Center at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd., #280, Danville, California 94526. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Schinnerer has been an executive and psychologist for over 10 years. Dr. John Schinnerer is President and Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches clients to their potential using the latest in positive psychology, mindfulness and attentional control. Dr. John Schinnerer hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Schinnerer is President of Infinet Assessment, a psychological testing company to help firms select the best applicants. Dr. Schinnerers areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development, to sports psychology. Dr. Schinnerer wrote the award-winning, "Guide To Self: The Beginners Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought," which is available at, and