Music affects our brains in all kinds of wonderful ways. Upbeat music is great for working out and classical music can help you focus, but even sad music has its perks. Here’s why we love listening to sorrowful songs, and why they deserve to be on your playlists.
Tuomas Eerola, professor of music cognition at Durham University, explains the three main reasons we like to hear sad songs. First, sad music can deepen and amplify the feelings of sorrow and loss. These experiences often aren’t pleasurable, but reflecting can be therapeutic. Sad music can also usher in feelings of melancholia, or as Eerola describes as the sentiment you might have on a rainy day. Melancholy, while often thought of as a negative feeling, is actually quite useful for enriching your creativity.
Lastly, those of us who indulge in sad music may simply enjoy “being moved.” In a recent study led by Eerola, and published in Frontiers of Psychology, many participants who listened to sad-sounding music described feeling “intense, pleasurable, and yet sad emotions” all at once. Additionally, the same participants showed high levels of “empathic concern,” or the ability to empathize with someone’s perceived emotion while also feeling tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for them. Basically, if you’re a highly empathetic person, there’s a good chance you feel a whirlwind of emotions when you listen to sad music-and you probably find it enjoyable overall.
Empathy is one of the most important skills you can develop because it can strengthen your relationships and make you a happier, more gracious person. So listen to sad songs and don’t hold yourself back from any feelings that well up inside. And if sad music doesn’t do anything for you, practice your empathy and become the person everyone always wants around.
Why Do Some People Love Sad Music? | Greater Good
Photo by Marsel Minga.