In the early 2000s, punk, or emo music was a countrywide teenage obsession. Recently, the former band My Chemical Romance celebrated the 10-year anniversary since the release of their album “Welcome to The Black Parade,” and past and current fans are overjoyed. This occasion has brought up memories of eyeliner and dyed hair, however concerned parents worry about what their kids are listening to. So really, is emo music bad for you?
One wouldn’t think that songs about death and heartbreak would help one’s mental stability in any sense, but this isn’t necessarily true. A study by researchers at the Free University in Berlin surveyed 722 people and found that sad music can have more beneficial emotional effects than happy music. Listening to this type of music can lead to the feeling of reward according to this study. The rewarding feelings can be divided into six categories: savouring feeling, understanding feeling, emotional assurance, emotional resolution, expressive potency and emotional communion. In summary, as opposed to these songs worsening how you feel about your current life predicaments, (i.e death in the family, school stress) people tend to find them comforting and a way to vent out their feelings.
“Music-evoked sadness can be appreciated not only as an aesthetic abstract reward, but also plays a role in well-being, by providing consolation as well as by regulating negative moods and emotions,” said Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch in PLOS ONE Journal. “In particular, the appreciation of sad music is enhanced when listeners are experiencing emotional distress, as well as among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability.”
Sad music can be comforting, as often the lyrics talk about problems similar to the listeners, such as relationship problems, divorce in the family and other personal issues. Instead of the song making them feel worse by driving negative thoughts into their mind, the listener might feel that someone else understands what they are going through and that they are not alone in their issues.
“The fact that people seek and appreciate sadness in music may appear paradoxical, given the strong popular and scientific emphasis on happiness as a source of personal well-being,” said Taruffi and Koelsh. Although it can seem strange that hearing melancholic things when feeling down can improve your mood, it makes sense in some ways. It may seem that you’re just feeding the negative feeling by having music put emphasis on it, but in turn it helps to organize our pessimistic thoughts.
When we are sad, we tend to fall into our own little world and our thoughts can spiral out of control. Music helps ground us by letting us connect to something outside of our own head space. Though hearing comforting words from a friend or family member is also helpful, if there is no one around, music can be all the company you need.
Sometimes it’s OK to feel sad, so instead of trying to repress these feelings; it’s better to embrace them.
You can read the full study here.
Photo courtesy of Wallpapers XL
Here are a few examples of sad songs that could possibly improve your mood.