A broken heart. A sad ending to a love affair. That's something most of us have experienced, or probably will. After all, it's part of human life; needed, at least one time, to become more fully1
adult. But no question, the experience can be devastating2
But research shows there are pathways through the heartache. Listening to sad music is a major one. It can help you begin to feel joy and hopefulness about your life again. It can activate3
empathy and the desire to connect with others—both avenues through the prison of heartache and despair.
Sad music can help heal and uplift you from your broken heart. A recent study from Germany found the emotional impact of listening to sad music is an arousal of feelings of empathy, compassion4
, and a desire for positive connection with others. That, itself, is psychologically healing. It draws you away from preoccupation with yourself, and possibly towards helping5
others in need of comfort.
Another experiment, from the University of Kent, found that when people were experiencing sadness, listening to music that was "beautiful but sad" enhanced their mood. In fact, it did so when the person first consciously embraced their awareness6
of the situation causing their sadness, and then began listening to the sad music. That is, when they intended that the sad music might help, they found that it did.
These findings link with other studies that show embracing your sad situation emotionally—accepting reality as it is—stirs healing and growth beyond it. In short, acknowledging your full experience arouses hope—another seeming paradox7
. For example, research from Cornell University, described here and published in Psychological Science, found that embracing discomfort8
about a life experience or new situation, and viewing it as a step towards growth and change, generates motivation to find a pathway through it, beyond it. As Churchill famously said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." That discomfort points you towards creating a plan, a new action. It fuels hope.