Science Says Listening To Sad Songs Will Actually Make You Happier
Everyone has bad days, and everyone has a way to cope with them.
Some people love to just get outdoors. They'll go for a walk around the block, get some fresh air and remember that things might not be as deep as they once thought. They’ll start to relax. They'll remember to take things in stride.
For others, vigorous exercise is the best remedy for the blues. Whether it's after a stressful day at work or a bitter lovers' quarrel, running a few miles on the treadmill can usually melt away the anger.
Personally, I’ve never needed much in the way of coping. Music has always been my best medicine. My iTunes library is divided into different genres for my moods. I have jazz to unwind; I have deep tech for a gym workout. I put on sad music when I'm feeling sad and need a pick-me-up.
Music has the unbelievable ability to affect our moods. And anyone with a passion for music can confirm this.
Certain music resonates to our very core. But there's no universally "great" genre; music is such a personal love, and different songs strike a chord for different people. And I'd argue that your taste in music indicates more than your preferences; it provides other people with a look into your soul. Our choice of tunes -- and books, movies and TV shows -- is part of what makes us who we are.
But of all the different genres, I’d have to say that sad music -- which I mentioned above -- may have the greatest impact (at least on me).
The other day, I watched a friend of mine cry to Adele's new song. I kid you not: The song inspired a physical reaction. After my initial brief period of shock, I realized I could totally relate to her response (perhaps minus the waterworks).
But while sad music can certainly bring some people to tears -- as it did for my friend -- other people feel its effect differently.
Sad music soothes and calms me. When this happens, I always remember the age-old cliché: "Misery loves company." Whether I’m dealing with heartache or a brief existential crisis, it's always been therapeutic to listen to Kurt Cobain sing the thoughts inside my head.
And the latest news in scientific research? Sad music is good for our souls.
According to Anthony Domanico for Cnet, sad music can actually have a profound effect on a listener's mood. According to a recent study by researchers at the Free University of Berlin, sad music can lift our spirits and generally has a “significant positive effect on our emotional well-being.”
One of the most interesting conclusions that this study made was about nostalgia. The study indicated that sad music can make us nostalgic for happier times and places in our lives.
And in a post for Psychology Today, Krystine Batcho, Ph.D., a professor at Le Moyne College, explains how exactly nostalgia can lift our moods:
“By triggering reminiscence, nostalgia can remind us of who we once were, how we overcame challenges in the past, and who we are in terms of our relationships to others,” she writes.
She then draws a line between nostalgia and “social connectedness." Apparently, melancholy tunes help us feel less alone because they dredge up memories of people and experiences from our pasts. (On another token, thinking of past experiences and old friends could make us more sad when we consider our relative loneliness today)
But what is it about sad songs that seems to be such a draw? According to Batcho, it's the lyrics. Apparently, the words in sad songs connect artists and their audiences. Batcho writes:
By identifying with the lyrics of a sad song, a listener can empathize with the vocalist and understand that others have shared experiences of rejection, loss, unrequited love, misfortune, or other themes characteristic of sad songs.
Sad songs help people self-soothe. Generally, hearing someone else's voice when you're down in the dumps is enough to lift your spirits even a little. But when no friends are around, a sad song can stand in for someone's comforting words.
When we're upset, we often get lost in our own thoughts. Sad music helps us connect with something outside of our own spiraling negativity. We empathize with someone else's problems and forget our own for a moment.
Though misery might love company, never underestimate how much misery also loves a good sad song. Next time you’re having a bad day, don’t look to bring anyone else down -- just pick the right song.