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Do you find yourself listening to sad music when you are blue? You are not alone. People everywhere have been found to do the same. Won’t it make things worse, listening to sad songs when you’re sad yourself? Apparently, it won’t. This has confused people all over. People prefer tragedy over comedy when it comes to art. Aren’t our lives sad enough already? Do we need art to make us cry some more?
Studies have been conducted to find out the reason. The Japanese have found out that negative songs can invoke positive emotions. Ai Kawakami and colleagues from Tokyo University of The Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute made 44 volunteers listen to two pieces of sad music and one of happy music. These volunteers consisted of both musicians and non-musicians.
It has been found that the sad music evoked ‘contradictory emotions’ among the participants. “In general, Sad music induces sadness in listeners, and sadness is regarded as an unpleasant emotion. If sad music evokes only unpleasant emotion, we would not listen to it,” the researchers concluded.
The sadness felt though art feels pleasant as it does not pose an actual threat to our safety. People feel the sadness and can relate to it, can empathise. This helps them deal with their negative emotions.
Something similar has been found by another study. Researchers from Freie Universität Berlin conduced a survey of 772 participants across the globe. It has been found that people listen to sad music after a breakup or after losing a loved one. The researchers found out that listening to sad music gives us four different cognitive rewards- the reward of imagination, empathy, emotion regulation and no ‘real life’ implications.
The music can hence help them let their imagination run free and feel less alone by empathising with the singer. Sadness is not the emotion they feel when they listen to sad songs. It’s nostalgia. The music makes them relive the happier times of the past. This is a bittersweet feeling and ultimately can make one feel good.
Singing along with a sad song can help get rid of the pent up emotions. It may be difficult for one to cry it out. A sad song can then help.