Feel Good About Feeling Bad: Why Wallowing In Your Sadness Is Healthy
True confession: I really, really love when I have the deep, dark blues. There’s something incredibly relieving and indulgent about dramatically crying alone in your bedroom or the vacant phonebooth or the bathroom at Chop’t.
Sometimes when you’re feeling miserable, you’re actually feeling a whole lot better.
Even when we’re not particularly upset about anything -- maybe we’re simply just over-tired, cranky or stressed -- it’s oddly satisfying to put on a sad song, check out for a minute and let the melancholy wash over us.
It’s more than cathartic; it’s a release. It’s a moment to yourself to literally tune out the ugly world and instead fill it with beautiful melodies.
I welcome the bad days. I relish lying bed all morning, thinking about nothing except how terrible I feel, and how I strangely hope it’s only going to get worse.
There’s a sort-of attention-seeking behavior going on coupled with a hyper-meta awareness that I’m not actually depressed, I’m just wallowing in a rare sadness. This self-realization grounds me and feels good for my soul.
Listening to sorrowful songs is actually scientifically pleasurable (more on this later). It’s a timeout for the mind to just drift and relax to soothing tunes. Sometimes when you’re feeling really down, you just need someone else to match your mood. Somber music makes the perfect company.
Other times when we’re feeling dreary, it comes from a nostalgic place rather than one of despair. The act of thinking about a happy memory makes us simultaneously sad to see it go.
We’re missing something. We’re longing for it back, and our lives feel empty without it by comparison. Feeling bad yet? Because I am.
It’s taking that split second to remember Grandpa when you see his favorite ocean. Or thinking about that day in the park with your ex-boyfriend when it felt like only you two existed.
Those moments of appreciation combined with heartbreak that empty our insides, but also fill us up with emotion. The reminiscing we are doing almost feels selfish, and that greed feels oddly rewarding.
Cheers to the bad days, to the times when you feel down-in-the-dumps and just want to remove yourself from everything. They’re not good, they’re definitely not great and yet, they feel absolutely perfect.
May you always find fulfillment from sorrow, and happiness from the quiet beauty of sadness. Here’s why feeling bad feels so good and why we love to wallow.
You receive attention
When you’re visibly upset and withdrawn, most people’s first instincts are to comfort you. Even if you don’t want to interact, knowing that other people actually care about your well-being is an instant ease. It feels good to be surrounded by people who show genuine concern.
The more dramatic your state, the more attention you receive (which, for some, can actually be a problem). It’s a pseudo-positive reinforcement that your misery is warranted. Validation is always nice.
It gives yourself a mini-vacation from being “on” all the time
You know what you’re not doing when you’re despondent? Trying to please people or fake your emotions. Wallowing in your gloom allows you to personally check-out and just take time for yourself. It’s an excuse to block everyone else out and focus on yourself.
You don’t have to put on airs or be charming or be a real person. Sadness might be the most genuine emotion we have because for once we’re not trying to be anything else in addition to it. It’s the socially acceptable form of being a recluse.
Everyone understands the need to be alone when you’re upset and they’re happy to give it to you. Sometimes you really just need a break from the world and dragging out your glum affords you that opportunity.
Sad songs are good for the soul
Multiple music studies have shown that listening to melancholy tunes can evoke a wide range of feelings, including acceptance, a sense of peace and even happiness. It’s not just that sad music cheers us up or feels cathartic.
“Rather than happiness, sad music elicits an entire range of ‘sublime’ emotions,” says researchers. These “sublime” emotions include wonder, transcendence, peacefulness and nostalgia.
NYMag also reports that “melancholy music helps with emotional regulation -- that is, it helps us process our emotions by prompting reflection and contemplation.”
This supports the budding argument that music can be used as therapy. Listening to downtrodden tunes helps us to better process our feelings. May we suggest a Billie Holiday melody or Damien Rice crooner?
Break out the tissues and the sad Spotify soundtracks, and enjoy a lovely evening with you and your tears.