Ever Wondered Why Sad Music Makes You Feel Better?

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Bliss out to those minor chords.

A stack of records piled on a chair

Whether you grew up singing Queen’s Somebody To Love, Lionel Richie’s Hello, or you were a kid attuned to Avril Lavigne’s world (heavy eye-makeup and all) most of us, at some point, have turned to the minor-chord ballads of our favourite musicians to help ease us tough times. But if returning to a state of relative happiness is our objective, then why do we reach for depressive songs when we’re in the pits?

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In her TEDx Sydney talk, musician and researcher Dr Sandra Garrido speaks of the human love for sad songs. After interviewing, surveying, and experimenting with, thousands of people alongside her colleagues, Sandra found that there was not one specific reason, but a few underlying themes. Firstly, Sandra found that those who loved sombre tunes had a strong capacity for absorption, and as those minor chords bounded, participants were able to lose track of time and enjoy the symphonic journey. Another group of people was able to use their musical time naval-gazing on their own life, and thinking back on moments that were brought up by the music.Sandra also argues that from an evolutionary perspective, turning to music is an adaptive mechanism used to help us survive, by allowing us to think and motivate change.

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Alternatively, she found in her research that after concluding with sad music and playing a happier tune, participants would perk up; a token reminder that music does have the power to shape and shift our emotions during the day. So next time your day throws you lemons, have your favourite tragic song at the ready, and go from there.

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