Sadness is inevitable. Even the happiest, positive-driven people can feel down from time to time. When a person is sad, it’s usually recommended that they do things they enjoy like: take a relaxing bath, read a book, watch one of their favorite shows and listen to music. When it comes to the latter, people will most likely lean towards listening to upbeat music. But is that the best choice to cure your blues?
In a PLoS One study titled, “The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey,” two researchers explored how people are affected after listening to sad music. The results may not be what you expect. There were 722 people from around the world who participated.
“For many individuals, listening to sad music can actually lead to beneficial emotional effects,” observed researchers Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch. “Music-evoked sadness can be appreciated not only as an aesthetic, abstract reward, but (it) also plays a role in well-being, by providing consolation as well as regulating negative moods and emotions.” In other words, bring on the Adele tracks.
Listening to a sad, slow-tempo song, such as “Someone Like You,” can evoke feelings of “nostalgia, peacefulness, tenderness, transcendence, and wonder.” Taruffi and Koelsch discovered that people who listen to sad music feel better afterwards, especially during emotional distress or moments of loneliness. Sad music can also cause an individual to become more imaginative as they go down memory lane.
Researchers made sure to follow up with a study of people listening to happy music when they were sad. But the same feelings of peacefulness and nostalgia didn’t make an appearance. It’s fair to say that sad music can help people regulate negative emotions and moods. A study by Psychology of Music suggests teenagers use sad music as a coping mechanism that can help control their mood swings.
There are various reasons why people favor listening to sad music when they are sad or not. A study conducted by Durham University in the UK concluded that a possible explanation could be social psychology. An element of this is the validation of negative feelings individuals experience from music. If a person is sad, music has the ability to mirror their situation. When this happens, they are able to connect with the music on a deeper, personal level.
The next time you’re feeling upset or simply in the need of a good cry, turn to your sad music playlist on Spotify. Placebo’s “Battle for the Sun” album does the trick for me, especially their live performances and don’t even dare reading up on the lead singer’s personal life. Sad music will never go out of style so enjoy it. Be open to delve into those undesirable feelings with a few depressing songs. You’ll be feeling better in no time.