Winter can be a tough time of year, especially here in Salt Lake City. It’s intolerably cold. The snow is only beautiful for a matter of hours before city life and bad air blacken it, it’s nearly impossible to function outdoors during an almost constant inversion, being on time to anything is completely unfeasible, and the only real general consistency is a widespread state of misery for anyone who isn’t posting pictures on Facebook of their engagement in a snow-covered barn.
People everywhere are tirelessly complaining about winter and the way it makes them feel – unmotivated, depressed, lonely, the list goes on. I even have friends leaving the state – permanently moving! Not a vacation. Not a short, seasonal escape. A permanent change of residence thousands of miles away because apparently Utah winters are just that bad. But is moving away really the answer? The cure? Some would say yes. Maybe even most. Some might say it’s alcohol, or a lot of hot baths, or both. But while these methods may be effective, I think the best remedy to the winter blues can be found in music.
It’s a recently realized phenomenon that listening to sad music when you’re down actually has positive effects on your psyche. It makes you happier. According to Zachary Davies Boren of The Independent, UK, a collection of “researchers from the Free University of Berlin surveyed 722 people around the world and found that sad music, more than happy music, ‘can actually lead to beneficial [and rewarding] emotional effects.’”
So how does this happen? According to Boren and researchers’ results, listening to sad music brings forth emotional rewards in the forms of imagination, empathy and emotion regulation by allowing listeners to relate to what they’re listening to without there being any real-life adverse consequences to the experience. This then generates implications of relief. Boren reports that, “Nostalgia rather than misery is often triggered by sad music, with the study finding that ‘memory-related processes are central in music-evoked sadness.’”
Aristotle explained this phenomenon as catharsis – the idea that negative emotions can be purged from someone’s being through overwhelming exposures to other forms of indirect negativity that are relatable, but not directly problematic. This is relevant to horror movies as well. The reason we like them so much, even though they convey heavy disturbances, is that we can, on a primitive, psychological level, relate to the horror we’re experiencing without having to deal with the actual consequences that would follow, say, a graphic murder in real life. These artistic forms of negativity push primitive buttons in our brains that demand attention and allow us to entertain natural tendencies in ways that are safe for us both physically and mentally, thus helping to relieve us of added pressures and negativities that can present themselves in real life.
So, before you decide to pack your bags and put yourself through the stress and strain of leaving everything behind, just remember that you can safely and effectively exercise your natural inclinations by “murdering” your winter sadness with music. Go ahead and take the time to plug in a little Ed Sheeran or Adele before you commit to some drastic cure with consequences that last a whole lot longer than a winter season.