young woman listening music in autumn forest

Why Sad Music Is Good

Why Sad Music Is Good

Why would any of us ever want to listen to sad music if it made us feel unhappy? I mean, I’d like to assume that the vast majority of us don’t wish to feel bitter and heartbroken on purpose. Maybe it’s the idealist in me speaking, or maybe it’s because sad music doesn’t just simply make us feel sad. Sure, you might recognize that a song like Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” is tragic, but is what you’re experiencing as you hear the song actually sadness? Perhaps the same can be said for why sad music seems to ease our hearts after a breakup. The reason why sad music is good, is most likely because of the way it makes you feel better.

A study by Ai Kawakami published this summer in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that sad music evokes positive emotion. While Kawakami’s participants recognized the sad songs they heard as tragic, their emotional experiences were described as “romantic” and “blithe.” This further validates, as psychologist Jeremy Dean says, that the number one reason people love listening to music is for positive mood management. Maybe this also sheds some light on why we like certain songs and have no idea why. Either way your secret is out: deep down when you turn on that iPod you don’t want to wallow in self-pity, you want to feel good. This may not mean that we never experience sadness while listening to music, but rather a blend of feelings and impressions.

Maximizing your own emotional experience while listening requires more of you than just listening. Make yourself mentally available by keeping an open mind and allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Why sad music is good is really because it can make us feel carefree and it encourages us to sew our broken hearts shut. If you’ve just had a breakup, it’s okay to listen to that breakup song you love so much. As long as you aren’t still listening to it everyday 6 months later in your bedroom at 2 p.m., with the shades pulled down, throwing darts at your ex’s picture— you’ll be fine. I’ve always said that music makes every moment and emotion more significant. I don’t see my opinion changing anytime soon.