Life

This is why crying to sad songs is actually good for you

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Megan Murray
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Some surprising research has revealed the positive benefits to be had from having a good old cry to some sad music.

Lying in your bedroom and listening to emotional music has long been one of the stages in a break-up. Just like Chadler from Friends and his ‘sweatpants’ stage after parting ways with Kathy, there’s often a certain amount of moping to be done when we’re feeling down. 

But though your housemates may have the best intentions when they try and prise you from your pyjamas and Adele playlist, there’s more of an argument for letting it all out than you might have thought. 

It turns out that having a good old cry to a sad song is actually good for your emotional health and can make you feel better afterwards.

In a study conducted in April 2017, researchers asked 154 people to report back on how they felt when listening to different types of music.

From this, categories were created to reflect the range of physical and emotional responses that arose while music was playing, including goose bumps, shivers, crying, or a lump in their throat.

Participants were then asked to listen to six songs and report back live how they were feeling. Using a computer, they were able to indicate if a song had brought them to tears and simultaneously how much pleasure crying gave them.

Researchers also studied participant’s heart rate and other physical reactions to determine if people felt better after indulging in some melancholic me-time.

According to researchers, the answer is yes.

Music can be a healthy form of catharsis 

The study explained that songs which induced tears from the listener also brought about a sense of pleasure and calm after they finished.

Apparently getting chills and producing tears gives us a form of pleasure: “Psychophysiological experiment showed that self-reported chills increased electrodermal activity and subjective arousal, whereas tears produced slow respiration during heartbeat acceleration, although both chills and tears induced pleasure and deep breathing.

“A song that induced chills was perceived as being both happy and sad whereas a song that induced tears was perceived as sad.

“Results show that tears involve pleasure from sadness and that they are psychophysiologically calming.”

If you’re one of those people that secretly love sticking on a sad film and having a cry, you’ll know exactly where this study is coming from.

And widely speaking, there are long-term benefits to ‘feeling all the feels’.

A study by Binghamton University and University College London found that though women are hit harder emotionally in the throes of a break-up, they recover much better and come out stronger, while men don’t necessarily recover; they move onto someone else.

“Most women, broadly speaking, seem to be hit hard and fast by a breakup, but are less self-destructive, utilise more social support, and recover faster and more fully,” says Morris, the study author. Women hit a moment when they realise, “it’s really over, it’s time to move on”.

On the other hand, “(men) seem to react badly and in some sort of self-destructive/angry fashion often combined with depression. This can last for months or years. Then they just sort of ‘move on,’ usually via another relationship.”

So if crying it out makes you feel better, got for it - and chances are you’ll make it out the other side in an even better place. 

Images: iStock

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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