Why Sad Things Make Us Happy, According to Psychology
Sad things, by nature, should make us sad, right? Sad songs, sad movies, sad pieces of art and sad television shows make us shed endless tears and feel that aching pit in our stomachs.
And yet, we love them and couldn’t be without them. As it turns out, these sad things can even make us feel happy. It seems that enjoying sad stuff doesn’t make us psychopaths. It’s actually entirely normal and can even be proven by science. Think of the phrase “cry it out”. It seems there’s more to that than just an old wife’s tale.
There’s some incredible biology behind why it’s genuinely good for you to cry and some psychological explanations for why heartbreaking films and gut-wrenching ballads make us feel happy. Crying is like doing a juice cleanse, but for your emotions. When we cry, the tears we produce actually contain stress hormones. Thus, crying reduces the level of these hormones inside our bodies and eventually makes us feel better. Other studies also show that crying also stimulates the production of endorphins.
They naturally cure pain in the body and make us feel good – they are also produced when we exercise. Studies have shown that when we cry at things like sad movies, after a little while, we feel better than we might if we hadn’t cried at all. One study had a group of people watch some incredibly sad movies (La Vita e Bella and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale). When the movie was over, they rated their mood. After 20 minutes, those who had cried during the movies rated their mood as much higher than those who didn’t cry at all! By releasing those toxins through their tears and producing those feel-good hormones, the sadder participants left feeling happier than the others. Not every sad thing makes us cry, but still, they manage to make us happy anyway. Sad music is a perfect example of this. We don’t often shed tears listening to emotional ballads. But we still feel just as happy as when we experience other, cry-worthy things. When we listen to music with a sad message, our bodies release Prolactin. It’s a hormone we produce when we’re going through periods of grief. It soothes us naturally from the inside out. When we feel sadness, even when it’s only set off by things like sad music or art, our bodies flood our system with this chemical in order to protect from getting too sad. It helps us level out and feel calmer, sometimes even more so than before. Listening to any kind of music also stimulates the production of dopamine – the happy hormone. This encourages us to feel happy, no matter how sad the music might be. It’s not all biology and chemicals when it comes to sad things making us feel happy. Sometimes, the emotions we feel are a product of our thoughts alone. Sad music, movies, art and literature all provide us with one thing in particular – something to relate to. Imagine you’ve been brutally dumped by the person you love. It’s not totally unexpected to find yourself binging sad romantic films because you “need a good cry”. We love to see and hear about other tragic stories when we’re feeling down because we crave the feeling that we aren’t alone. Sad things we can relate to will eventually make us feel happier because we realize we aren’t alone in our struggle. And in the end, this is all we ever want. Sometimes, it’s also helpful to us to see a similar struggle to our own because it gives us some guidance and advice on how to navigate our own tragedy. It might be a little twisted, but we also like to know that our plight is not all that bad compared to the stories we see played out in movies, television and song. You might watch The Titanic movie and cry your eyes out, feeling completely overwhelmed by sadness as we come to realize that (spoiler alert!) Jack is no longer with us. But it’ll certainly make you rethink just how tragic your own struggle really is. This, in turn, might just make you feel a little happier. Sometimes, sad things just make us happier by giving us something to relate to and learn from. And that’s more than enough, but they also often contain happy endings. In the darkest of moments, we can be shifted quickly from sadness to happiness when the sad movies or songs we’re enjoying remind us that it will get better. Scientists, therapists and doctors all recommend a good cry to aid healing. It’s because there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad – in fact, there are even some benefits! If you don’t let yourself feel when you really need to, you’ll only be bottling up those emotions until you burst. When you want to cry, cry! Remember that it’ll help to reduce the level of stress in your body, making you feel happier, sooner! If you feel sad, indulge in some sad things. Find some solace in an emotional Adele song or see that happy endings can happen in a Nicholas Sparks romantic movie. Sad stuff doesn’t always have to mak.
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