- Amy Morin is an author, psychotherapist, and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.
- She says several studies have found that listening to music while working can make you more productive.
- Listening to happy music makes you happy, and when you feel happy you often work better.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
If you struggle to be productive while working from home, you’re not alone. Staring at a laptop in silence makes it harder to stay on task than you might think.
In the absence of coworkers, you might turn down the rabbit hole of social media for a little human interaction, where scrolling can easily waste countless hours of your time. Or maybe you turn on the TV for a little background noise only to find yourself engrossed in a talk show for a solid hour.
So while silence can be problematic, filling the void can be a distraction. Fortunately, turning on a little background music might be the solution to improving your productivity.
But not just any music will do. Listen to the songs that help you feel happy, and you’ll get more work done in less time.
The link between music, happiness, and performance
Music is a great tool for regulating your emotions. The songs you listen to have the power to boost your mood, calm you down, or pump you up.
That’s why music became a lifeline for so many people during the COVID pandemic. Our recent survey at Verywell Mind found that 79% of people turned to music to cope with the stress of the pandemic. (Many of them were likely working from home.)
It makes sense that so many people rely on music to regulate their emotions. Research has also discovered that intentionally listening to happy music can have a profound impact on your happiness level. A 2012 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to happy music became happier people within just two weeks.
And it’s no secret that happy people are productive people. Researchers have long since known this. In fact, a 2019 study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School set out to study how much happiness matters. They discovered that happy people tend to be 13% more productive.
So it makes sense that listening to happy music makes you happy. And when you feel happy, you work better. But that’s not the end of the story.
Listening to music while you’re focused on something else (like writing a report) might also improve your performance. A 2014 study found that listening to upbeat background music improved the brain’s processing speed and bolstered memory in older adults.
And while both upbeat and downbeat music showed memory benefits, processing speed improvements were only present when people listened to upbeat music. So this reinforces the idea that happy songs could be the key to enhanced performance.
Happy music is tough to find
You’ll likely find it’s easy to recall plenty of songs with sad melodies and angry lyrics. But spend a minute trying to recall happy songs, and you might draw a blank. That’s because upbeat songs are in short supply.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies found that music lyrics have become increasingly sad and angry over the past 50 years. And listening to sad or angry music may have a negative impact on your mood or performance.
So it’s important to be intentional about the music you play while you work. Commit to listening to upbeat music so you can be more productive.
A happy playlist
Rather than spend hours looking for upbeat songs – we thought we’d supply you with a great playlist that might help you feel happier and make you more productive right away.
While my expertise is in helping people feel happier, song recommendations are a bit outside my wheelhouse. Fortunately, however, I have a resident expert on staff.
The producer of The Verywell Mind Podcast, Nick Valentin, is an amazing audio engineer. When he’s not working with me, he records musicians like Pharrell Williams, Marc Anthony, and Sean Combs (a.k.a Puff Daddy or Diddy). So I asked for his input on the happiest songs he knows. (And it just so happens that he even worked on the album that tops our list.)
Here are 10 songs that can make you feel happier and be more productive when you’re working from home:
- “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
- “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Bronson and Bruno Mars
- “ABC” by The Jackson 5
- “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps
- “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
- “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown
- “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
- “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
- “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
Turn on the background music
Experiment a bit with background music to figure out what helps you stay most productive. You might find listening to the same song over and over again actually helps you stay on task best. Or you might discover upbeat, instrumental music helps you stay focused.
Try a few experiments, and you’ll learn how to use background music to your advantage when you’re working from home.