Studies have demonstrated the power of music to provide emotional rewards such as imagination, emotional regulation and empathy.
Researchers presented participants clips of classical music ranging from upbeat pieces like Offenbach’s cheerful “Infernal Gallop” and melancholy pieces such as Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings; their findings demonstrated that depressed people preferred sad tunes over upbeat ones.
1. It’s a form of catharsis
Sad music can provide many people with a cathartic experience. Listening to sad songs may help them cope with difficult life events such as a breakup or loss, while recalling memories from their own experience or someone else’s may surface during listening sessions. While listening may provide temporary comfort from difficult circumstances, this should never replace professional therapy sessions.
Studies show that people who enjoy melancholic music do so because it connects them emotionally, likely due to its musical timbre and lyrics which give voice to feelings they might otherwise not express in other ways. Furthermore, melancholic music may cause the release of prolactin which helps ease grief.
melancholic music can often be described as beautiful due to its use of dark harmonies, the string sound, and varied pitches. Perhaps this association between beauty and tragedy stems from humans having long associated beauty with tragedy; moreover, studies have shown that certain individuals experience what’s called “sweet sorrow” from listening to melancholic tunes.
Remember that while sadness is a natural human emotion, excessive feelings of it can be unhealthy if they become habitual. People who ruminate over negative events or situations, like depression, are likely to become worsened over time and need professional help if their sadness has become an avoidance tactic for managing symptoms of depression.
Researchers Taruffi and Koelsch conducted a study that demonstrated how people typically prioritize emotional expression over technical proficiency when selecting music, with participants more often selecting sad music when describing emotional experiences than happy songs. When responding to “What emotions do you experience when hearing sad music?,” participants described various emotions including nostalgia, sadness, and tenderness as prevalent feelings.
2. It’s a coping mechanism
Sad music can provide catharsis as well as being an effective coping mechanism for some. Listening to sad songs allows them to express their true emotions more freely without risk of being labeled “mopey”.
Researchers attempted to replicate a 2015 study which demonstrated depressed individuals preferring sad music by providing classical music clips like those by Offenbach’s upbeat “Infernal Galop” and Samuel Barber’s melancholy “Adagio for Strings”. Results were similar–depressed participants preferred sad songs instead of feeling worse after listening to it! But researchers were surprised when that same group reported feeling happier rather than worse after hearing such music!
The team theorized that this phenomenon may be due to a discrepancy between perceived emotion and felt emotion, with participants reporting they didn’t necessarily experience all of the feels when listening to melancholy music compared to happy music; rather they could comprehend and relate to what emotions were being expressed, connecting to them. Furthermore, melancholy music provided value and meaning into their lives that happy music couldn’t match up against.
Unfortunately, this form of coping may not always be appropriate for those living with depression. One reason may be due to how it encourages ruminating which can lead to negative thoughts that in turn increase depression over time. Therefore, those experiencing depression must learn healthy methods of handling their emotions as well as finding alternative means of dealing with them.
If you’re experiencing depression, try listening to upbeat music or talking to a trusted friend about your emotions. Therapy may also provide the ideal setting in which to explore these matters safely; alternatively, meditation, mindfulness or relaxation techniques could also provide relief from your distress.
3. It’s a distraction
People often turn to melancholic tunes when feeling down. Listening can provide an escape from unpleasant thoughts or emotions, much like listening to punk music when driving is frustrating or belting out heavy metal anthems can help people release anger. Unfortunately, according to new research you could be jeopardizing your mental health by listening exclusively to melancholic tunes when feeling blue.
This study, published in Emotion, examined one aspect of how we interact with sad music – specifically what’s known as perceived emotion as opposed to actual feelings generated by certain songs. Simply put, researchers wanted to know whether we really felt sadness while listening or were simply perceiving it as such.
To determine this, researchers had participants listen to two distinct classical music clips – one happy piece and one sad – before asking participants about how much pleasure each had given them. As expected, those listening to happy pieces reported higher levels of enjoyment compared to those listening to sad pieces.
Researchers also discovered that those reporting higher levels of depression and anxiety reported feeling worse when listening to the sad musical clip due to engaging in rumination, the practice of thinking negatively about yourself or the world around them. When engaging in this form of self-analysis it can be hard to break free and focus on positive thoughts that will help address one’s difficulties.
As such, those suffering from depression or anxiety should avoid listening to sad songs as a form of self-expression; writing and painting are more productive methods which could help them deal with their issues more constructively and healthily and return them back into a balanced state of mind and prevent feelings of worsening depression or anxiety.
4. It’s a distraction from reality
Researchers have observed that those experiencing depression often turn to sad music such as Fiona Apple’s “Sleeping in a Room” and Chopin’s nocturnes for relief. Listening to such tunes for extended periods can become harmful as prolonged listening can lead to rumination – an activity linked to clinical depression which involves dwelling over past negative experiences or feelings that were once pleasant or pleasant in your past.
Reducing negative emotions through natural grieving means avoiding or limiting exposure to sad music; there are also other methods you can try that might lift your mood such as focusing on positive aspects of life or hobbies that bring joy.
Another possible reason why people enjoy sad music may be its ability to evoke nostalgia. Studies have demonstrated that people are more likely to appreciate music that reminds them of happy or meaningful times in their past lives, which may provide comfort after experiencing loss due to a breakup or death in the family. This form of musical therapy may even help individuals cope with grief associated with loss, and this form can offer relief during difficult times in one’s life.
People also find comfort in listening to sad music because it allows them to experience empathy for those they’re listening to, or use these feelings of empathy as an outlet to comfort themselves or connect with those going through similar emotional turmoil. Empathy is a powerful emotion which can help us cope with difficult situations and emotions more effectively.
Contrary to popular belief, sad music does not exacerbate depression; in fact, it may provide some psychological advantages. So the next time you’re feeling down, don’t hesitate to turn on some melancholy tunes–just make sure that they are balanced out with songs with more upbeat tunes in terms of both musicality and lyrics so as not to overindulge in negative melancholy tunes and cause yourself harm; ultimately your mental wellbeing should come first over any song ever composed!