15 Songs That Will Instantly Boost Your Mood
Add these to your Spotify or Apple Music playlists for moments when you're feeling down.
There's nothing worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed or going through a day where it feels like nothing is going your way. We've all been there, and many of us turn to music to boost our mood in those low moments. You might not be able to explain why certain songs make you smile—even on the toughest days—but according to experts, there's some science behind it.
"Music can have a direct impact on our emotions and mood," Courtney Hubscher, LMHC, LCPC, NCC, of GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, tells Best Life. "Studies have found that listening to music can release dopamine, a feel-good hormone, in the brain. This is why certain songs can instantly boost our mood and make us feel happier."
With that said, your favorite song might not necessarily be the one you turn on when you want to cheer yourself up (perhaps you really love a sad ballad!)—and your go-to tune might not be the same as others'.
"When it comes to the power of songs to boost your mood, it's surely not a one-tune-fits-all matter," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, author of Joy From Fear, explains. "The mood-boosting benefits of songs emanate from a variety of factors, including tempo, lyrics, artist, and genre. And, of course, personal experience plays a huge part in the songs that each person finds uplifting."
Manly adds that your choices might also differ depending on how you're feeling, and you should "feel free to pick and choose depending on what you personally need on any given day."
If you're looking for some new additions to your mood-boosting playlist, we've got you covered with suggestions that span different genres, tempos, and vibes. Read on for 15 songs that will instantly lift your spirits.
"Shake It Out" (Florence + The Machine)
When life gets you down, you want a song that is going to remind you that the clouds will eventually clear—making Florence + The Machine's 2011 hit a perfect listen when you need it.
"Any Way You Want It" (Journey)
If Journey is your go-to band, consider adding "Any Way You Want It" to your lineup, perhaps after "Don't Stop Believin'."
With an upbeat tempo and reminders that you're not "alone," this '80 jam is guaranteed to make you crack a smile.
"All You Need Is Love" (The Beatles)
Head back to 1967 and give "All You Need Is Love" a listen. Chances are the sweet melody and catchy verses will remind you of the things you can be grateful for.
"The frequencies of various types of music help relaxation, stress reduction, [and] can help you reflect on earlier times in your life to gain perspective on your personal journey," she says.
You'll also find a cover of "All You Need Is Love" on the soundtrack of the Christmas classic Love Actually—and according to Manly, "nearly any tune" from that album is "sure to bring a bit of sunshine to almost anyone's day."
"Defying Gravity" (from Wicked)
If your idea of a perfect happy playlist is one that's chock full of showtunes, "Defying Gravity" from the hit musical Wicked should definitely be on there. Originally performed by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, it's one of the more well-known Broadway showstoppers, becoming a fan-favorite for a reason.
"'Defying Gravity' from Wicked is an instant mood booster, especially for women," Carrie Rose, life coach and founder of SunUp Coaching LLC, tells Best Life. "It portrays an unlikely hero who is willing to risk everything to stand up for what is right, and to stand up against a broken system. Not to mention it has an incredible crescendo at the climax of the song! Play this when you need a mood booster and motivator to do the hard thing."
"Unwritten" (Natasha Bedingfield)
This early 2000s hit starts with some light guitar strumming and a catchy pop beat, which might be why it's so often on playlists of happy hits.
"I loved the endorphin rush that occurred each time I heard those vocals," Matt Giles wrote about the song in a 2019 piece for Longreads, also calling the song's message "wildly refreshing."
The lyrics explain that there's a "blank page" ahead and that the best is yet to come, so if that's the message you need, let Natasha Bedingfield tell you how it is.
"Old Time Rock & Roll" (Bob Seger)
"Old Time Rock & Roll" might conjure images of Tom Cruise's iconic dance scene in Risky Business. But if you haven't given this Bob Seger hit a listen in a while, rest assured it's still as enjoyable today as it was decades ago.
"The song that I always tell my clients to listen to for an instant mood boost is 'Old Time Rock & Roll' by Bob Seger!" Olivia Dreizen Howell, certified life coach and clinical hypnotherapist, tells Best Life. "It's the perfect song for so many reasons. One is that it's not about love, so you can listen to it post-breakup without falling apart. Secondly, it has an amazing beat and rhythm, so it's perfect for grabbing a broom and singing along like you're singing into a microphone."
As a bonus, the song's simple lyrics encourage you to belt them out—and according to Howell, "singing is an instant mood booster!"
"Give Me Everything" (Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer)
No list of mood-boosting songs is complete without a Pitbull hit, and "Give Me Everything" has the perfect beat that you just can't help but dance to.
It's also one of those party classics that might remind you of happy memories, whether that's a gathering with friends or the wedding of a loved one.
"Music has a way of transporting us back in time to some of our happiest moments," Hubscher says. "So if you're feeling low, consider listening to songs from your past."
"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (Whitney Houston)
Another '80s jam that'll lift your spirits is "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by the late great Whitney Houston. Even if you can't hit the high notes, the hopeful lyrics and melody in Houston's hit just make you want to dance—with somebody or by yourself.
As Hubscher explains, "Upbeat and energetic songs can get your body moving and lift your mood, increasing productivity."
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)
You can't deny the fun of a Motown beat, and the opening chords of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" will immediately have you bopping along. (The football players in Remember the Titans certainly couldn't help dancing!)
Don't assume it's just about love either, as the song also discusses empowerment, so turn this one on when you need a reminder that you are capable of doing great things.
"Levitating" (Dua Lipa)
Dua Lipa is now a household name, churning out feel-good hit after hit. In 2020, her song "Levitating" was released, and when giving it a re-listen three years later, it's still just as catchy.
If you've heard it one too many times, Hubscher says another of Dua Lipa's songs, "Cool," is equally "uplifting and motivating."
"Send Me on My Way" (Rusted Root)
This peppy 1992 tune from one-hit wonder Rusted Root is guaranteed to get you feeling better. The lyrics are known to be a little hard to figure out, but that doesn't make it any less fun to sing (or mumble) along to.
According to INDY Week, the song uses "both an African work-song chant and yodeling," creating a unique melody that feels good to hear.
"golden hour" (JVKE)
This is another modern hit that can transport you to another place—which can be invaluable when you feel like you need to escape for a few minutes.
"8D audio is the closest sound to live music you can get. Best listened to with headphones, the experience makes you feel like you are in a larger space," Kate Sizk, confidence coach and founder of Hidden Intimates, says. "The dreamy piano arpeggios made 'golden hour' a viral TikTok song. This song is the soundtrack to a pink sky, sunset drive with the love of your life."
The song has been featured in over 1 million TikTok videos, Sizk adds, "often used over happy moments." But if "golden hour" isn't your jam, you can also look to see if your favorites are available in 8D. (Spotify has plenty of playlists that compile them!)
"Don't Stop Me Now" (Queen)
Several of Queen's rock hits deserve a place on your mood-boosting playlist, but "Don't Stop Me Now" might have you feeling particularly motivated.
Starting slow with just piano and Freddie Mercury's powerhouse vocals, the song builds with lyrics about making your own way.
Maybe you'll even find that you're "having such a good time" when you weren't before you queued "Don't Stop Me Now" up.
"Three Little Birds" (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
"Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley & The Wailers is a classic reggae selection for any day when you're feeling blue. The lyrics literally tell you that "every little thing is gonna be alright," which is a nice reminder not to get bogged down in life's stressors.
"When we're feeling low, it's easy to lose sight of our own strength and resilience," Hubscher says. "Listening to music that reminds you of your worth, your capabilities, and your ability to overcome any challenge can be a game changer."
"Cruel Summer" (Taylor Swift)
Pop icon Taylor Swift has many hits about ignoring the haters (here's looking at you, "Shake It Off"), but those aren't the only songs in her discography that spark joy.
"Cruel Summer"—a song off of her 2019 album Lover— features lyrics about desperate love, and if the bridge of this hit doesn't get your scream singing, we don't know what will.
As Beth Ribarsky, PhD, professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, explains, listening to Swift's songs may also give you a sense of community.
"Music can help us bond with others when we find someone else who has the same tastes as us. There's a reason why Swifties almost feel like a cult," she says. "Or, sometimes we might find a connection if you find someone who also enjoys something eccentric."
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