Cracking up some soul-shatteringly sad tunes when you’re feeling at your lowest can actually help alleviate your mood, according to a new study that surveyed people on why they listen to sad music and the emotions they experience when doing so.
Researchers from Freie Universität Berlin surveyed 772 participants from around the globe to investigate their sad music listening habits and how it affected their moods. “For many individuals, listening to sad music can actually lead to beneficial emotional effects,” they wrote in the PLOS ONE journal.
“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.”
Among some of the songs listed by participants as their favourite sad piece of music were Johnny Cash‘s cover of Nine Inch Nails‘ Hurt, Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, The Beatles‘ Yesterday and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
The results of the study suggest that sad music brings up “complex and partially positive emotions, such as nostalgia, peacefulness, tenderness, transcendence and wonder.” Surprisingly, nostalgia rather than sadness is the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music.
Researchers believe that listening to sad music improves people’s well-being by allowing them to vent negative emotions when they are feeling distressed, as well as providing a sort of consolation, relieving them from their feelings of isolation.
At the same time, “music-evoked sadness has pleasurable effects due to the engagement of imaginative processes,” they add. That is, sad music can be used as a tool for relieving pain, as feeling of unhappiness can be expressed and shared through the forces of creativity.
Interestingly, the researchers found that there were similar benefits when a happy person listened to happy music, but the effects were not as compelling in comparison to the sad music experience.
Johnny Cash – Hurt