Manage Depression by Unlocking the Power of Sad Music

Conductor's baton sitting atop a pile of music scores.

The psychology of music is deeply concerned with how sound influences your feelings. (Image: Tobias Schwarz via Dreamstime)

Dark, solemn, and frequently mournful in tone, sad music is a subgenre of the indie rock and metal subgenres. Generally, it is characterized by its mellow, minor-key melodies and its incorporation of ambient, classical, and post-rock styles. 

The lyrics frequently explore melancholy subjects like heartbreak and despair. Additionally, the melancholy mood can encourage introspection and contemplation by evoking feelings of isolation and loneliness. Indeed, music can immediately and favorably affect your state of mind.

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How do sad music and emotions connect?

The psychology of music is deeply concerned with how sound influences your feelings. Generally, you may experience intense emotions, such as shivers and excitement, in response to the music.  

Aesthetic appreciation and empathetic involvement may play a role in the pleasure of sad music. Both traits are connected with a preference for sad music and the strength of emotional responses elicited by sad music.

Sad music is often viewed as therapeutic by its listeners, who feel emotionally better afterward. Benefits of this sort include the ability to think creatively, control one’s emotions, and express compassion. In addition, many people find that listening to music, especially music that expresses unpleasant emotions like grief or rage, helps deal with those feelings.

Some listeners, it seems, love the music and the feelings it evokes in them. Those experiencing melancholy or difficulty thinking through solutions to problems may find listening to music therapeutic. Experiencing sadness when bad things happen to you is typical and expected. So you are prompted to evaluate your circumstances more closely and improve your life.

Young Asian man sitting on rooftop of an abandoned building with depression or stressed out during sunset in the city.
Many people find that listening to music, especially music that expresses unpleasant emotions like grief or rage, helps deal with those feelings. (Image: Benjawan Sittidech via Dreamstime)

Why do you enjoy listening to sad music?

Sad songs are blamed for making people feel down, a negative emotion. So if listening to sad music makes you feel sad, why do you do it? As for why you could have happy feelings when listening to sad music, one theory suggests that it’s because of its expressive force.

Understanding and being able to relate to the pain of others is critical to appreciating sad music. Empathy is identifying and sharing another person’s feelings and emotions. A sincere display of sorrow is more likely to elicit sympathetic responses from others. Generally, a person with a high empathy capacity may also feel a heightened concern when listening to sorrowful music.

Simple musical feelings can be grasped in a short amount of time and without any prior musical expertise. People typically associate negative connotations with a sense of sadness. Meanwhile, other people prefer sad music when they listen to it for its aesthetic value and empathy.

What happens when you listen to sad music?

Sad music has been linked to several psychological effects, including alleviating painful emotions, recalling significant past events, and creating sentiments of closeness and solace with others.

Additionally, sad music tends to have specific psychological effects, including regulating unpleasant emotions, recalling memories of previous major events, and fostering feelings of connection from past emotions. Here is where traumatic experiences enter the picture.

Generally, everything that brings back painful memories of the past has the potential to reawaken trauma responses and long-buried emotions. As your trauma response governs your reactions to others, this may be the root cause of how you treat them.

The idea that most people like sad music because it allows them to release their emotions is persuasive, but not everyone has a good hold on their feelings. So instead of bottling up your emotions and letting them consume you while listening to your favorite sad tunes, getting professional help is best.

When people feel down, lonely, or contemplative, they will likely turn to sad music to help them cope.
When people feel down, lonely, or contemplative, they will likely turn to melancholy music to help them cope. (Image: Andreblais via Dreamstime)

What roles does music play in depression?

A listener can find intimacy and solace in the company of music. When people feel down, lonely, or contemplative, they will likely turn to melancholy music to help them cope. Listening to sad music might be like having a sympathetic imagined buddy after suffering a social loss. One way to deal with sadness is to listen to music as if you were in the company of a virtual friend experiencing the same way.

If listening to sad music caused an unpleasant emotion similar to a tragic perceived emotion, the music would hurt listeners. This is because the music expresses feelings that the listener may be unable to verbalize otherwise.

Listening to melancholy music, however, may be a maladaptive coping mechanism for certain people because it might make them feel even more down and depressed. This is especially important for disadvantaged teens, those prone to depression or obsessing, and those living in difficult conditions.

Rumination is the habit of dwelling excessively on upsetting or upsetting thoughts and feelings, often to the point that one cannot get themselves out of the rut. Depression is often present alongside it. Ruminators may find that sorrowful music triggers more depressive thoughts and feelings.

A musical release of pent-up feelings

Instead of fighting against your unfavorable emotions, you can let them flow through you and be replaced with more substantial outcomes like compassion, nostalgia, and peace. Music that reminds you of joyful moments or emphasizes positive themes may be what you need to restore your energy and help you feel better when you’re feeling low.

Many people lack a healthy means of dealing with their bad feelings, instead directing them towards those around them. Listening to music is one way to experience closure and release pent-up emotions. This applies to all suppressed feelings, whether joy, grief, tension, rage, helplessness, or resentment. 

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