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Study: Could Sad Music Help People Light Up Their Mood?

Jun 15, 2016 05:12 AM EDT
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A new study from a joint team of researchers from Durham University, UK and the University of Jyväskylä, Finland revealed that sad music can be used for music therapy and rehabilitation to help people lighten up their mood.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests that listening to sad music can improve a person's mood by evoking pleasurable and comforting memories related to the sad music.

However, researchers also noted that some of their participants have related sad music with previous painful experiences, making them strained mentally and physically.

"Some people enjoy sad music and derive a lot of comfort out of such music in certain situations but when a particular piece of music becomes a container for a negative emotion related to a personal or environmental challenge, a music therapist would carefully start working on its representations," explained Professor Jörg Fachner, Professor of Music, Health and the Brain, at Anglia Ruskin University and was not part of the study, in a statement.

For the study, researchers enrolled f 2,436 people across three large-scale surveys in the UK and Finland. These surveys explored the reasons, mechanisms and emotions of memorable experiences linked with sad music.

The researchers found three types of experience associated with sad music across the survey. These experiences include pleasure, comfort and pain. They also noted that older adults tend to feel stronger experiences of comforting sadness when listening to sad music, while young people and women experience strong negative feelings when listening to sad music.

According to the researchers each type emotional experience associated with sad music could be connected to a distinct profile of reasons, psychological mechanisms, and reactions.

"We think that this demonstrates well the functional nature of these experiences," explained Dr Henna-Riikka Peltola from the University of Jyväskylä and co-author of the study in a press release. "Although the positive experiences seemed to be the most frequently associated with sad music, truly negative experiences are not uncommon in any of the samples in our research."

Their findings suggest that sad music may have different effects on different people and a skillful music therapist should know how to adapt to the individual meaning of the sad music representing negative experiences and memories.

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