Stress and Anxiety? What to Do About Depression? Crank-Up a Sad Song!

by | Jul 14, 2013

“You know, I don’t get it. I really love listening to sad music. In fact, I have to admit it makes me feel, well, good. What’s up with that, anyway?”

Is kind of interesting, isn’t it? And with the results of some fresh research at hand, we may just have some answers as to why.

May sound odd; however, if you’re enduring buckets of stress and anxiety – or wondering what to do about depression – listening to sad music may, in fact, be a great remedy.

According to a new study, the results published in Frontiers in Psychology, it seems as though sad music may well generate positive emotions. ‘Course that supplements the explanation as to why folks enjoy listening to those sad songs. Kind of like Elton John and Bernie Taupin detailed in their 1984 hit, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”

Turn them on, turn them on
Turn on those sad songs
When all hope is gone
Why don’t you tune in and turn them on
They reach into your room
Just feel their gentle touch
When all hope is gone
Sad songs say so much

Come on, now, were you singing or humming as you read?

Now to the guts of the research. Study lead Ai Kawakami, and team, had participants (musicians and not) listen to two pieces of sad music and one happy piece. Then the participants were asked to come up with keywords to rate their perception of the music, as well as their emotional state.

Oh, what were the pieces? Well, the sad ones were Mikhail Glinka’s “La Séparation” in F minor and Felix Blumenfeld’s Etude “Sur Mer” in G minor. Enrique Granados’s Allegro de Concierto in G major was the happy one. And isn’t this clever? To manage the “happy” effect generated by a major key, the team also played the minor-key pieces in major key, and vice-versa. Be sure to click the links, give a listen, and see how the pieces make you feel. (Frankly, the sad ones didn’t come-off as all that glum to me.)

In summary, the research team stated sad music actually evoked contradictory emotions. And that’s because the participants leaned toward feeling sad music was more tragic, less romantic, and less cheerful than they were feeling while listening to it.

From the study…

In general, sad music induces sadness in listeners, and sadness is regarded as an unpleasant emotion. If sad music actually evokes only unpleasant emotion, we would not listen to it.

Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion. And people, regardless of their musical training, experience this ambivalent emotion to listen to the sad music.

But what is it about music that can evoke unexpected emotions? The team submits, unlike sadness in daily life, sadness experienced through art actually feels pleasant. They believe that’s because the latter doesn’t pose an actual threat to our safety.

That being the case, sad music, then, could actually help us deal with our negative emotions on a daily basis.

The team put it this way…

Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.

Don’t know about you, but I’m “in” with the study results. In fact, I can recall numerous times when sad music – especially with minor chords – were a good fit in the moment. Even lifting my spirits. Okay, so I’m no Elton John or Bernie Taupin; however, here’s a poem I wrote about just that several years ago…

A Good Day

The air with chill
Dark horizon perfect

Minor chords
Swollen heart
Untamed emotion

Every word counts

Every note
Every thought
Every moment
Every whim and way

No boundaries at such a special time
When it’s all there and honest
Pure and right

For once I can let it all in where it belongs
And feel
Emerging the incredible from deep within
Of substance and truth

To wallow in this private world
Taking it for all I can
As long as it can last

Paint myself with it
Eat and drink of it

A dark day
A good day

Hmmm. What to do about depression? Stress and anxiety troubling you? Why not crank-up a sad song? Seriously, what do you think? Anything to it?

“More Chipur articles,” you demand? Peruse some titles.

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