Can listening to sad songs make you happy?

Listening to sad music may make you happy! When you are feeling low, listening to sad music instils a feeling of happiness and relief.
A sad girl listening to music
Listening to music can impact your mood in many ways. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 4 Nov 2023, 04:15 pm IST
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We have all gone through that one big break up which entailed weeks-worth of crying yourself to sleep, blasting the most tragic songs on our earphones or airpods! We have all experienced the sense of calm that listening to sad songs gives us, the sense of closure and relatability. So, if you are also wondering how such tragic lyrics can make you happy, you are not alone!

Health Shots got in touch with Dr Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, to understand if sad songs can actually make us happy.

He says, “Yes, sad songs can instill a sense of happiness or relief in a person. This phenomenon is known as the ‘paradox of the sad song’.”

Can listening to sad songs make us feel good?

The world knows that there are benefits of listening to music. But what about sad songs?

A study was conducted by Free University of Berlin scientists Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch to understand how sad songs make us feel. They asked the participants to list out their feelings when they heard sad music. The list had feelings such as ‘nostalgia’, ‘peacefulness’ and ‘tenderness’, which are all feelings of calm, rather than uneasiness. Dr Noorani says that there are many ways in which a sad song can make you feel better.

1. Catharsis

Listening to sad music can serve as a form of emotional release or catharsis. It allows the listener to process and express their own sadness in a controlled environment. This can lead to a sense of relief and even a feeling of lightness afterwards.

2. Empathy and understanding

Sad songs often contain lyrics and melodies that resonate with the listener’s own experiences and emotions. This sense of understanding and connection can lead to a feeling of comfort and, in turn, a shift towards a more positive emotional state.

  • Aesthetic Appreciation: Some people find beauty in sad music, appreciating the artistry and emotional depth involved in its creation. This aesthetic appreciation can evoke a sense of joy or contentment.
  • Transcendence: There’s a concept called tragic pleasure, where people find a certain pleasure or beauty in experiencing sadness from a safe distance, knowing that it’s a temporary and controlled emotional experience.
  • Enhanced Emotional Complexity: Experiencing sadness through music can contribute to a broader emotional range and depth of experience. This increased emotional complexity can lead to a greater overall sense of fulfilment and well-being.
Music therapy has benefits for mental health
Music therapy can be help people deal with trauma and grief. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the mental health benefits of music therapy?

Music therapy offers a range of advantages across physical, emotional, and cognitive domains. Here are some of the key benefits of music and why listening to sad songs may be good.

  • Music helps with emotional expression and regulation: Music provides a non-verbal means of expressing and processing emotions.
  • Stress reduction and relaxation: Listening to or creating music can trigger the relaxation response, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
  • Enhanced mood and emotional well-being: Music can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins, leading to improved mood and a sense of pleasure.
  • Improved Cognitive Function: Engaging with music can enhance cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. It can also be beneficial for individuals with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Physical Rehabilitation: Music therapy can be used to support physical rehabilitation efforts. Rhythmic elements in music can help with movement coordination and motor skills.
  • Social Connection and Communication: Group music activities promote social interaction, cooperation, and communication skills. This is particularly valuable for individuals who may struggle with social interactions.
  • Self-esteem and Confidence Building: Successfully creating or performing music can boost a person’s self-esteem and confidence.
  • Pain Management: Music therapy has been shown to reduce pain perception and the need for pain medication in some individuals.
  • Creative Expression and Artistic Outlet: Music therapy provides an avenue for creative expression, allowing individuals to explore and develop their artistic abilities.
  • Coping with Trauma and Grief: Music therapy can be a powerful tool in helping individuals process and cope with traumatic experiences or grief.
  • Improved Quality of Life for Chronic Conditions: Music therapy has shown positive effects in individuals with chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Connection: Music can be deeply connected to cultural and spiritual practices, providing a means for individuals to connect with their heritage and beliefs.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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