You may be wondering why someone with depression would want to listen to sad music before when they should be listening to upbeat, cheerful music. This is no different than feeling less lonely when you go to a support group and you hear people talking about their sadness. Listening to sad music will send a message to you that you are not alone in how you are feeling and that there is always someone out there dealing with something worse than you.
Downward social comparison is when you feel better about yourself knowing that there is someone out there who has it worse than you. You will feel better about any problems or sadness you are experiencing when you turn on Patsy Cline or The Smiths. They are struggling in their songs too and they are conveying their emotions through song. Another reason can be because these songs mirror the situation we are currently in. For example, you could be listening to a rap artist rapping about living in the ghetto and wishing he can get out. You may be having that same experience as well and feel good that someone else out there shares your problem. You may have gotten your heart broken and feel like no one can possibly understand what you are going through. By listening to a song about a painful breakup like an Adele song, you will feel like you can relate.
From a scientific perspective, Science Alert says that melancholy music is linked to the hormone prolactin which controls your grief. We are preparing ourselves for dealing with a traumatic event and feel pleasure when that event does not happen. We know that listening to sad music will release dopamine which is a feel good hormone, making us want to continue listening to sad music to continue feeling good. Not only do listeners want to hear the sadness of others but will also want to relate to a message that the song is sending so that they know everything will be okay. It can be like listening to “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. That if someone breaks up with you, you will not crawl on the floor in grief but that you will survive through this. Music can also be a way to trigger good memories that you had of that person. Maybe that person sang that particular sad song in the car and hearing that song over and over will help you relieve the good memories you have of that person.
One example of a sad song that can help with depression is Coldplay’s “Fix You.” The first two verses of the song talk about different scenarios like trying your best but not succeeding, not getting what you need, not being able to sleep, and feeling sad from losing something irreplaceable. Then the chorus tells the listener “the lights will guide you home” and “I will try to fix you.” Listening to those words will inspire hope in listeners that this band knows what you are going through but is telling you that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the song, it is like the listener is answering back to this advice and saying “I promise you I will learn from all my mistakes.” This song recaps what kind of emotional problems you may be experiencing as well as giving you the message of trying no matter what obstacles get in your way.
Another example of a sad song to make you feel better is “This is Me” from the musical movie “The Greatest Showman.” This song is sung by circus performers who all look different from the society norm of the 19th century. The song starts with the bearded lady singing that people have told her in the past to hide because no one will love her because of the way that she looks. But then towards the chorus, she is saying that whenever someone wants to make her feel bad, “I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.” She says that despite being bruised, she believes that she is strong and brave and will no longer hide who she is from anyone. Then the rest of the circus performers join in singing these same words which empowers the audience as well. Anyone who is suffering with depression because they are bullied, having facial deformities, or anything else that people pick on you for can hear this song and feel empowered to push past those words and be your best and true self.
As helpful as the melancholy songs may be, they can also be a distraction from reality if you listen to them too much. You cannot stay held up in your room just listening to a marathon of these sad song as the problems you are trying to escape will still be there. You need to take the inspirational messages that these songs are feeding you and apply them to the real world. Maybe this will inspire you to write your own song or poem where you use your own vocabulary and emotions to convey a message. Someone out there may read your work and feel helped just like when you were listening to other artists. Listening to sad music can show you that anyone can be sad but to turn that sadness into empowerment that you can do anything.
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