This is why you like to listen to sad music


Time to turn up the volume and bawl your eyes out

The days are cold and the nights are longer. Even though winter has its moments, things like seasonal depression and dark days can make the season feel a little sad. The perfect time to turn on some music to match the mood. But why do we like to listen to sad music? 


According to Dutch psychologist Annemieke van den Tol and researcher Roger Edwards, sad music helps us remember a certain person or a past event from our lives. It makes us feel melancholic, wanting to go back to that moment in time. Sad melodies could also help let go of certain emotions that have been building up for a while. Turning up the volume and getting lost in the sad lyrics of an Adele song can apparently help get those feelings out.


A different explanation is given by David Huron, a researcher who executed research on hormones and sad music. According to him, the hormone called prolactin plays a part in our love for sad music. This hormone is usually associated with pregnancy and breast feeding but it turns out that prolactin is also released when you feel sad or when you cry. The hormone makes sure that your sadness doesn’t get too ‘big’. It keeps your grief from “getting out of hand” as Huron calls it. When you listen to sad music, you get the feeling of sadness (with a dose of prolactin) without an actual sad event occurring. Apparently, feeling sad without something to feel sad about, makes us feel quite good. According to Huron it’s “a bit like Mother Nature wrapping her arms around you, consoling you, and saying, ‘There, there; it’s okay.’”


Another theory coined by Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology, is about context. According to Keltner, there is a difference between your own sadness and the sadness you experience when you listen to a sad song. Your brain will register you listening to the song as something sad, but it will only be sad in the context of the music. Not outside of that. Your personal sadness exists outside of the music. The difference in context makes it possible to see the sadness you experience while listening to music from an outsiders perspective. It’s a more objective kind of sadness that doesn’t consume you.

So time to go out for a walk, put on those headphones, turn the volume up to listen to some tearjerkers and pretend you’re the main character in a music video.

Also read: Don’t hold back your tears! Here are 7 health benefits to crying

Source: HLN | Image: Unsplash, Alex Blăjan