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

What to Do About Depression

“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.

  • Lisa Frederiksen July 14, 2013, 6:17 pm

    I LOVE that song and play it over and over when I’m sad or down. Great post, Bill – sharing!

    • chipur July 14, 2013, 8:35 pm

      Hey Lisa!

      Sure appreciate your visit and participation. And thanks for passing the article along. Chipur readers, check-out Lisa’s work with alcohol abuse, dependence, prevention at

  • J. July 15, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Maybe that’s why I am 53 and recently became hooked on post-grunge minor chord bands like Alice in Chains and Godsmack.

    Do you think the same thing applies to angry music? Screaming angry music appeals to me right now. Maybe because it expresses emotion I have to keep kind of throttled down most of the time.

    • chipur July 15, 2013, 4:52 pm

      Hey J…
      Well, I don’t know if there are any studies that indicate “screaming angry music” has the same effect. But I’ll say this – if it’s working for you, without nasty residual effects, go with it. Get it out of your system!!! Appreciate your visit and comment…

  • Guest July 15, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I only listen to sad songs. I fee that suffering produces the greatest art. My collection of sad songs will probably make my funeral arrangements more difficult.

    • chipur July 15, 2013, 9:05 pm

      Well, let’s just hope those arrangements can be postponed for a looooong time!

  • Megan July 15, 2013, 6:27 pm

    I only listen to sad songs. Human sorrow makes for the most profound artistic expressions. It’s good to know I’m not the only one out there suffering. It doesn’t matter from what– it just matters that someone else can shoulder the pain. Even if it’s not all from the same place. The sad songs collection will probably make my funeral arrangements a little harder.

    • chipur July 15, 2013, 9:07 pm

      It does feel good to know we’re not in all of this (whatever it happens to be) alone, doesn’t it, Megan? And that’s just one of the things I’d like Chipur to be about – sharing pain, and receiving encouragement. Again, let’s hold off on those funeral arrangements, okay? I always appreciate your visits and contributions…


  • Marianne July 16, 2013, 1:09 am

    Sad songs are like the sad stories that my kids sometimes write. I allow them to write sad stories and even stories with bad characters, however I do require the stories to have a happy ending! Songs, like stories, should a good message. They should have a positive message even if it is hidden. I refuse to watch movies that do not have a good message for life. I teach using a bad character that I call the Swamp Monster or the Green Gomper. He starts out bad, but during the climax, he starts to develop into a good character. It is always the love of a little child who loves him when nobody else would that changes him into a good guy! Hopefully, this story.will help.somebody. :-D

  • Patricia Miller July 16, 2013, 11:08 am

    I love the poem you wrote, Bill, but that is nothing new. Your poetry is much like music since it speaks to our souls from yours.

    As to sad songs specifically, I know that the lyrics of a song are what touch me most of all. If the artist seems to have experienced something that resonates with me, and if the song is the type I can sing along with, then it usually will become one that is a powerful, healing tune for me for a significant period of time. There does need to be some message of hope in the song for it to be one I will cling to though. I can tell you that music has always been powerful for me.

    Thank you for this great article.

    • chipur July 16, 2013, 3:50 pm

      Well, thanks for the kind words re the poem(s). I enjoy writing, and only wish I had more time to do so. Hmmm, one day. Incidentally, Chipur readers, word’s out that Patricia has a beautiful singing voice. Just a heads-up…

  • Mike July 16, 2013, 11:40 pm

    Sorry…run away from anything to invoke sadness. Makes no sense…when your depressed, down you listen to music that feeds that feeling and sinks you even deeper. Music, YES, good shiny happy music…no…sad music…no…calming trance music that stimulates peace…YES.

    • chipur July 17, 2013, 10:25 am

      Appreciate your perspective, Mike. Hey, if risking listening to sad music isn’t in the cards for you, stay the heck away from it. I’m with you. However, it really does provide a lift for some. Thank you for visiting Chipur and contributing…

    • Marianne July 17, 2013, 11:17 pm

      Generally, I agree with you Mike, but some people need to.know that they are not all alone. It provides a level of comfort to know you are not alone and somebody somewhere understands what you are gong through. I think happy songs make some depressed people feel totally isolated!

  • Jennifer October 21, 2014, 12:46 am

    Loved the poem :)

    • Chipur October 21, 2014, 5:02 am

      Thank you, Jennifer. Glad you stopped-by…