Can listening to sad songs make you happy?

We’ve all experienced that big breakup that forced us to cry ourselves to sleep for weeks, listening to the most tragic songs on our headphones or airpods! We’ve all felt the sense of calm that comes from listening to sad songs, the feeling of closure and relatability. So, if you too are wondering how such tragic words can make you happy, you are not alone!

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

He says, “Yes, sad songs can bring about a feeling of happiness or relief in a person. This phenomenon is known as the “sad song paradox.”

Can listening to sad songs make us feel good?

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

A study was carried out by Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch, scientists from the Free University of Berlin, to understand how sad songs make us feel. They asked participants to list their feelings when they heard sad music. The list contained feelings such as “nostalgia,” “tranquillity,” and “tenderness,” all of which are feelings of calm rather than unease. Dr. Noorani says a sad song can help you feel better in several ways.

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 feeling of relief and even a feeling of lightness afterward.

2. Empathy and understanding

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

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  • 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 feeling of joy or contentment.
  • Transcendence: There is a concept called tragic pleasure, in which people find some pleasure or beauty in feeling sadness from a distance, knowing that it is a temporary, controlled emotional experience.
  • Improved emotional complexity: Experiencing sadness through music can contribute to a wider emotional range and deeper experience. This increased emotional complexity can lead to a greater overall sense of fulfillment and well-being.
Music therapy can help people cope with trauma and grief. Image provided by: Shutterstock

What are the benefits of music therapy on mental health?

Music therapy offers many benefits in the physical, emotional and cognitive areas. Here are some of the main benefits of music and why it can be good to listen to sad songs.

  • Music helps with the expression and regulation of emotions: Music provides a non-verbal way to express and process emotions.
  • Stress reduction and relaxation: Listening to or creating music can trigger a relaxation response, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
  • Improved mood and emotional well-being: Music can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins, leading to improved mood and feelings of pleasure.
  • Improved cognitive function: Engaging with music can improve cognitive skills such as memory, attention and problem solving. It may also be beneficial for people with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Physical rehabilitation: Music therapy can be used to support physical rehabilitation efforts. The rhythmic elements of music can help with movement coordination and motor skills.
  • Social connection and communication: Group musical activities promote social interaction, cooperation and communication skills. This is particularly helpful for people who may have difficulty with social interactions.
  • Self-esteem and confidence building: Creating or performing music successfully can boost a person’s self-esteem and confidence.
  • Pain management: Music therapy has been shown to reduce the perception of pain and the need for pain medication in some people.
  • Creative expression and artistic outlet: Music therapy provides an avenue for creative expression, allowing individuals to explore and develop their artistic abilities.
  • Dealing with trauma and grief: Music therapy can be a powerful tool to help individuals manage and cope with traumatic experiences or grief.
  • Improved quality of life for chronic diseases: Music therapy has shown positive effects in people with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and chronic pain.
  • Cultural and spiritual connection: Music can be deeply connected to cultural and spiritual practices, providing individuals with a way to connect with their heritage and beliefs.

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