4 Research-Backed Reasons Listening To Sad Songs Will Boost Your Mood

by Anthony Petronzio

The people in your life are like seasons. They come and go. No matter what, nobody is truly with you forever.

This phrase has been said a million times before, and it will be said a million times after I write this. It really is true.

A large part of life is dealing with loss, whether it's a breakup, a death or even a friend moving away. And what do we do whenever we're faced with the loss of somebody we love?

We stop, play a sad song and revel in the moment.

But why? Doesn't it seem so counterproductive?

After losing somebody, all a person wants is to be happy. So why do we choose to listen to music that brings us down?

The simple answer is this: Sad songs do not bring us down. In fact, it's the total opposite.

We actually enjoy sad music. According to a study done by Freie Universität Berlin, published in the journal PLOS ONE, it makes us feel better.

The researchers surveyed 772 people to try to figure out what makes sad music so enjoyable when we're going through loss. The results displayed four reasons why we enjoy sad music:

1. Reward Of Imagination

People are dreamers, and some are more so than others. We love to fantasize scenarios for ourselves and how things might turn out.

Music is a powerful tool for our minds, and it can make our imaginations go wild. When we're grieving after a loss, our imaginations can act almost as a safe haven for us.

Some people may think back to a good time they had with a lost loved one, and others may imagine the day they might get another chance with the one who got away. In the end, we see putting on a sad song and drifting away as a reward for ourselves.

2. Emotion Regulation

This reason is a little more vague, but emotional regulation is a positive aspect of listening to sad music. When you're dealing with loss, emotions can fly off the handle. You can be up, down and all over the place.

Listening to music can calm you down when you're hysterical, or on the opposite side, can help you let out some much-needed tears. Both scenarios help make you feel better.

3. Reward Of Empathy

It's true when people say, "Misery loves company."

While I believe we, as people, do not wish bad things on others, there is comfort in knowing other people have been through difficult times. They are going down the same road as us.

There are a lot of factors for this. Perhaps we feel humiliated over a breakup, and want to know we weren't the only people who got fooled.

Maybe in our lowest moments, we like to know that somebody else had the strength to get through what we're feeling. Overall, empathy is a big reason why we listen to sad songs.

4. No Real-Life Implications

This reason is a bit tricky and seems contradictory, but it does explain why we like sad music. Some sad songs have outcomes that our worse than ours. In a way, it feels nice to feel someone else's pain without having to actually go through it ourselves.

This could also explain why people listen to sad songs when they're happy. We enjoy the feeling of sadness, but we don't want to go through the hardships that actually cause the sadness.

It's also worth noting that the predominant emotion felt while listening to sad songs is not sadness, but nostalgia. For me, nostalgia is the most bittersweet emotion to feel.

Its complexity is what makes it so interesting to sit and reminisce about the best and worst days of our past. While I wish nobody on the earth ever has to go through loss again, we all know life is not that simple.

All of us will have to face hardship sometime in our futures. But I think it's nice to take solace in the idea that listening to a sad song when you get the chance is a proven way to feel  better.

Just make sure to pick the right song.