Study Suggests Sad Songs Help Soothe Emotional Pain

Doesn't she look, uh, maybe happy? Credit: Thinkstock

Doesn't she look, uh, maybe happy? Credit: Thinkstock

Oh no. You're going through a breakup. It doesn't matter who actually ended it—there's no way to avoid the ultimate suckery that is the end of a realtionship. 

Except, according to research, that listening to sad music can actually help alleviate the pain. Seriously. Take a moment to blast some Death Cab For Cutie (especially Transatlanticism), before continuing. 

There. Isn't that better?

So what's behind this phenomenon? Music and psych aficionados Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch explored the matter through an online study that sought to answer the question: "Why do people seek and appreciate sadness in music?" The poll collected findings from 722 people (ages 16-78, with most hailing from Europe but with healthy representation from Asia and North America too).

Turns out, tragic tunes don't necessarily induce emotional pain. In fact, listeners experience a spectrum of the feels. When participants were asked to describe their emotions while listening to sad music, nostalgia ranked highest at 76%. Following that was "peacefulness" and "tenderness" at 57.5% and 51.6% (respectively). Though sadness came in at 44.9%, "wonder" (at 38.3%) wasn't far behind it. 

And although research found that participants largely turned to melancholy music when experiencing "emotional distress" (liiiike a breakup), choosing such tunes provided comfort. It also helped regulate negative emotions; in a sense, enjoying this type of music when experiencing emotional pain is a form of venting (introverts, take note). In short: sad music helps you face reality—and move on. 

Now that you have the findings, here are our top music picks for a rough breakup:

1. Adele "Someone Like You" 

Because, duh.

Choice lyric: "I hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded that for me it isn't over."

2. Death Cab For Cutie "Title And Registration" 

OMG, the glove compartment is inaccurately named! If you don't cry during this song, check with your doctor to make sure you do in fact have a soul. 
Choice lyric: "There's no blame for how our love did slowly fade, and now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all."

3. Mumford & Sons "White Blank Page" 

Raw, emotional, and a tad angry. Great for sad solo car jams. 
Choice lyric: "Tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart."

4. MS MR "Think Of You" 

So, this is a down the road breakup song. It's sad, but powerful—because you are powerful too, damn it! 
Choice lyric: "I still think of you and all the shit you put me through, I know you were wrong." 

5. Marvin Gaye "Heard It Through The Grapevine" 

Don't let the upbeat sound fool you—this song is dark. Perfect for infidelity, shed some tears and move on!
Choice lyric: "I know a man ain't supposed to cry, but these tears I can't hold inside. Losin' you would end my life, you see."

And, for the lyric-less . . . 

6. Clint Mansell "Lux Aeterna"

I mean, did you see Requiem for a Dream?

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