Devastated by a messy break-up, I returned again and again to the separation-themed lyrics of Tegan and Sara’s album So Jealous. I’m a little embarrassed to admit my dependence on the sisters’ squeaky voices and repetitive tunes, but listening to sad songs, according a Walrus article about melancholy and music, might have helped me accept the relationship’s demise. Rather than sinking us deeper into the doldrums (unless we’re clinically depressed), sad music can actually make us feel better. In tears, the hormone prolactin, “along with the release of hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, mimics the well-being we feel in the most intense moments of connection with others—nursing an infant, having sex, receiving praise.” As musicologist David Huron says, “It’s biology wrapping its arms around you and saying, ‘there there.’” Feeling comforted can make us more realistic, whether about grades, like Huron’s student research subjects, or about losing loved ones.
Image by Patrick Doheny, licensed under Creative Commons.