75 F

Davis, California

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Column: Sad tunes for happiness

Crank up the volume for that sad song, bury your face in a pillow and give yourself an hour or so. You earned it, champ. It feels good, no? Some people love it and some hate it. Myself? I love it. It can be very therapeutic.

Sad music can be anytime music for me. Now, don’t go thinking I spend my days just listening exclusively to sad music. I have my fair share of happy, upbeat music – trust me. I’ll blast Daft Punk while cruising on I-80 over the sad stuff any day, but sad music can make me feel good like nothing else.

Why on earth could listening to sad tunes make a person feel better, whether their sadness is genuine or not? Believe it or not, there may be a reason – a chemical reason. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

An article by the San Francisco Classical Voice highlights an ongoing study by researcher David Huron of Ohio State University. Huron theorizes that people who enjoy listening to more morose music are enjoying the effects of prolactin, a hormone usually released when we’re sad and weeping, or pregnant and lactating (you know who you are). His study involves taking blood samples and measuring the levels of the hormone as the subjects listen to no music, sad music and happy music.

Huron likens the effect of the hormone as being “like Mother Nature wrapping her arms around you and consoling you, and saying, ‘There, there; it’s okay.'” Prolactin works like a handbrake to slow down grief. Not everyone listens to sad songs when they’re genuinely sad. So why listen to them? Huron says that by listening to a sad song one can fool oneself into thinking one’s sad, and then the conscious part of one’s brain will reason that there’s no legitimate need to be actually sad. So, that person will be getting the prolactin without any of the psychic pain, and they come out feeling rather good! People that don’t enjoy sad music probably aren’t producing prolactin; the study is still ongoing.

So, I’m fooling myself into thinking I am sad when I’m really not, and I come out feeling good? How badass is that? It’s a damned nice trait to have. I’ll admit that happy music does induce a similar “feel-good” feeling for me, but the one I get from sad music resonates so much differently.

I know I’m not alone on this happy train either. There are oodles and oodles of people that enjoy sad music like this and can vouch for it. My friend Gina will often find herself listening to “Just a Feeling” by Maroon 5 because it makes her feel good – freakin’ good. She’s even admitted to having it on three or four different mixes. If it makes you feel good, by golly, why stop it?

If you’re not already doing it, try it. Maybe you could use some more prolactin in your life. You may find yourself going “Aw, yeah. That’s the stuff.” I don’t think sad music should be solely reserved for times of genuine sadness. Science may even be able to back it up if this study follows through, but then again everyone is wired differently. If it doesn’t work out for you, I’m sorry.

Unless I’m shedding years off of my precious, little life by listening to the more morose tunes, I don’t think I will ever stop. I love hopping on the happy train whether it be through the sorrow station or the joyous one.

LARRY HINH is plenty happy! Let him know how you’re doing at lthinh@ucdavis.edu


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here