- New research reveals yet another reason to tune in. Find out more…
- Discover how your “comfort container” could be just a track away
- Plus, a new avenue that may lead to a different music experience
“Leave your home, change your name, live alone, eat your cake…”
— The National
Have you ever found yourself listening to the same sad song or album over and over again? Maybe even for a long period of time — months or, in my case, years…
And that same body of music is so powerful that you are instantly transported back to the same state of mind every time you hear it, even years later…
For me, that album was High Violet by The National. And, more specifically, a very morose song titled “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” which contains the opening quote of this article. I listened to this religiously for almost two years without much interruption.
You see, I had left my home, had dropped my nickname, lived alone, and occasionally ate my cake.
And while I didn’t feel sad about any of it (including the cake eating), I couldn’t help but repeatedly listen to this terribly sad and lonely ballad for almost two years.
Truth be told, though, I was really happy at that time. However, all of the change made me a little sad at moments.
Not to mention I’m finicky about my music selections, so for this one song to stay in the running for so long was a rarity. Yet for some reason, I couldn’t move past this album — even when I wanted to. (New research indicates there may be a good reason for this. We will dive into that in just a second.)
And even now I can’t hear the haunting first line of that song without smelling my old apartment or tasting the coffee I used to serve at my former job — the most overwhelming response is feeling the same bittersweet way I did during that time in my life.
As it turns out, though, lots of folk experience some form of sensory stimulation, or at the very least an emotional reaction, when hearing sad music, including comfort and even joy.
And now there is some science to back it up…
Comfort in Sadness?
Researchers at Durham University, in the U.K., and the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland, recently found that folks who listen to sad music can experience feelings of pleasure and enjoyment or even comfort, which can even lead to mood improvement.
However, this positive response isn’t universal. Some folks may experience just the opposite. Here’s what the researchers found out…
The scientists reviewed three surveys that included 2,436 people for their emotional experiences associated with sad music.
Three types of emotional responses were linked to sad music — pleasure, comfort, and pain.
The experiences of pleasurable sadness were consistent across both gender and age. But an interest in music seemed to increase these feelings.
Women and young people reported experiencing painful feelings while listening to sad music, but older people said they felt a more comforting sadness.
Experts were able to connect each type of emotional reaction with a specific psychological mechanism or reaction. The researchers think this demonstrates the nature of these experiences well.
The results show positive reactions were associated more with sad music than negative ones. However, they’re careful to point out that truly negative experiences weren’t uncommon in their research, especially when linked to personal loss, breakup, divorce, or other major life changes.
In addition, other professionals took notice of their findings.
Professor Jörg Fachner of Anglia Ruskin University, who wasn’t a part of the research team, commented on the importance of their findings:
Some people enjoy sad music and derive a lot of comfort out of such music in certain situations but when a particular piece of music becomes a container for a negative emotion related to a personal or environmental challenge, a music therapist would carefully start working on its representations.
Just as Professor Fachner suggests, maybe “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” was the comfort container for my negative emotions at the time.
If you find yourself listening to sad music but have a positive response, it seems like you should keep on doing it. If your response is negative, it’s probably time to create a new playlist.
Either way, if you are interested in exploring these feelings further, you should consult with a music therapist. Click here to find one in your area.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily