Most of us have tendency to avoid sad songs and music when we feel particularly down since we believe that it will make us feel even worse.
For most people, post-breakup behavior usually includes actually listening to a lot of sad songs whose music and lyrics speak of our woe in order to make us feel even worse and get all the sadness out as soon as possible. Yet, seems that we all had it wrong all along. Science proves the opposite is true – sad music actually makes us happier and improves our mental health. Here’s how.
Similarly to the case of a musical device called appoggiatura found in a number of sad songs, such as Adele’s “Someone Like You”, there is a scientific explanation to why sad music actually makes us happy. David Huron, a professor of arts and humanities in the School of Music and the Center for Cognitive Science at the Ohio State University, has been studying the effects of sad music on people. During earlier studies, he has found that certain groups of people are more likely to listen to sad music – people with openness, experiences, and people who score high on neuroticism tests. According to Huron, the hormone prolactin is responsible for positive impact that sad music has on our feelings.
Prolactin, mostly known as the hormone that causes lactation in breastfeeding women, is also being released during times of great grief. During great sorrow, our bodies produce the hormone as a natural soother to ease the process and help us cope easier. Similarly, as we are listening to sad songs, our body sends out a similar signal, which results in the production of prolactin. Therefore, as we listen to sad songs, we actually trick our body into creating a pleasant environment and happier feelings. “It’s as though Mother Nature has stepped in and said, ‘We don’t want the grief to get too exorbitant,’” Huron explains in an interview with The National.
So, no matter if you listen to sad music when you are feeling sad, or just because you like the feeling, now you have the scientific explanation of why you enjoy Adele’s music so much.