Science Explains Why Sad Songs Make Us Feel Better

Playing “Somebody That I Used To Know” on constant repeat as you weep into a heap of Puffs is a perfectly acceptable way to get over a breakup. But as you reach for your second pint of Cherry Garcia — though really, who’s counting? — have you ever wondered why we choose to play such heartbreaking songs, rather than happy ones that have a shot of elevating our crushed spirit?Turns out, listening to sad music actually has some surprisingly beneficial effects on our wellbeing, according to an October 2014 study in the journal PLOS One. It makes sense since even when we’re not feeling down in the dumps; there’s just something cathartic about listening to sad music, a way of purging yourself of gloomy emotions.The researchers found that listening to sad songs helped people regulate negative emotions and were consoling and comforting. “The appreciation of sad music is enhanced when listeners are experiencing emotional distress, as well as among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability,” noted the researchers.Study participants shared a range of positive outcomes they got from listening to sad music, from experiencing the sadness in the song and coming out the other side in a better mood to the pleasure derived from empathizing with the sad subject of the song — a type of virtual social connection.One of the findings that surprised the researchers was that the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music wasn’t sadness, but nostalgia — a bittersweet mood that research shows helps us reflect on the past and give life more meaning.So I guess Elton John was right — sad songs say so much.  

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