Why Sad Movies Make You Happy
Why Sad Movies Make You Happy
In 1978, I went to see the movie The Deer Hunter with a group of friends. Around the midpoint of the film, which explored the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on a group of friends from a small industrial town in western Pennsylvania, I started to cry. By the end of the film, I was sobbing. And to my friends' embarrassment, I continued to sob even as we got into our car in the crowded parking garage. I was a mess.
Fast-forward to a year later.
I am in my little apartment, doing my Saturday morning cleaning, with the TV humming in the next room. I suddenly become aware of music playing, and although I don't recognize the tune, I find my eyes filling with tears. I go to the living room to see what it is. It's a promo. For The Deer Hunter.
Fast-forward to today. In a study published in the journal Communication Research, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, a communications professor at Ohio State University, and colleagues found that people love sad movies because of their unlikely benefit: They can make you happy.
Knobloch-Westerwick's study involved 361 college students who watched an abridged version of the 2007 film Atonement, a film about two separated lovers who become the casualties of war. (It was drawn from the book by Ian McEwan, one of my favorite authors, though I found its overarching theme -- that one can make a mistake that reverberates over a lifetime -- far sadder than the story of doomed love.)
Before, during and after watching the film, the viewers were asked about their lives and feelings. The researcher wanted to determine how happy they were before plunging them into the big-screen chaos and tragedy, then to track their fluctuating emotions as the story unfolded and ended.
At the film's conclusion, Knobloch-Westerwick and her colleagues asked the students how much they enjoyed the movie and to write about how it led them to reflect on themselves, their lives, their relationships, and life in general.
And here's where the unexpected happened. The viewers who felt saddest while watching the movie were more likely to write about people with whom they had close relationships. That in turn increased their happiness afterward. Sad movies may make you cry, as Sue Thompson sang in her 1961 bobby-soxer hit, but they also seem to remind you that your life isn't so bad.
"People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life -- to count their blessings," said Knobloch-Westerwick in an interview. "That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce."
There might even be a chemical reason for the paradox. Across the OSU campus from Knobloch-Westerwick is David Huron, professor of arts and humanities at the School of Music and the Center for Cognitive Science. In his studies exploring the emotional effects of sad music, he found that when people are feeling sad, their bodies produce a hormone called prolactin. Yes, the same hormone linked to breastfeeding in women. He knows because he took people's blood while they were listening to sad and happy music and analyzed it. (Read a synopsis of the study here.)
Listening to sad music actually thrusts you into a "sham" state of sadness so that your body produces prolactin, nature's version of a warm hug. Huron believes that prolactin has a consoling effect that is meant to be protective.
So there you have it. In our "down the rabbit hole" world, sad is happy. I still can't watch The Deer Hunter or Old Yeller, though. I've never seen Bambi and don't plan to relive the Titanic sinking in 3D. But I do listen to sad music when I'm sad and I have to admit, it does make me feel better. In fact, I'm even a bit concerned that Adele has announced she's no longer writing sad songs. What will I do now when I have the blues?
- Why You Shouldn't Work at Night
- Do Dental X-rays Cause Cancer?
- Nutrient Timing: When to Eat What for Maximum Nutrition
- 3 Simple Meditations to Help You Focus
- Herbs That Boost Flavor and Your Health
- The Latest Superfoods You Need to Know About
- Want a Better Smile? Eat This
- Dial Down the Temp to Cook Healthier Meats
- Edible Flowers
- Shift to Plant Foods for Better Health and Eco-Impact
- Best Way to Dispose of Old Drugs
- Why Sad Movies Make You Happy
- Fighting Cancer with Plant Foods
- Lifesaving Skills Everyone Should Learn
- Emotional Eating: How to Stop It Forever
- Make Takeout Healthy Tonight
- Natural Cures for Spring Allergies
- The Good News About Dark Meat
- American Obesity Epidemic Much Worse Than CDC Believes
- Do You Have a Fatty Liver?
- How to Stop Ear Pain on a Plane
- Why Learning Leads to Happiness
- Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy and Healthy
- Why Our Homes Make Us Happy
- Happier People Deal Better with Hardships
- Religion Makes People Happier -- But Why?
- Boost Mood with Whole Foods
- Surprising Nutrition Facts on Foods
- Holiday Workouts: Try Interval Training
- Stay Fit and Trim All Winter Long
- Screening Tests That Can Save Your Life
- Eat Fiber and Feel Better
- The Worst and Best Sweets for Your Teeth
- Healthy Eating All Day
- A Smart Guide to Dietary Supplements
- Normal Weight Obesity - A Growing Concern
- Fruit and Vegetables: Americans Fall Short
- Hybrid Fruit: The New Super-food
- Is Indian Cuisine Healthy Cuisine?
- Is 'Ethnic' Cuisine Healthier?
- Surviving Cold Season: How Not to Get Sick
- 7 Healthy Habits in 7 Weeks
- Sleep More and Live Longer
- Heartburn-friendly Diet with Your Favorite Foods
- The Vibrant and Healthy Flavors of an Authentic Latin Diet
- Is It Hunger or Just Appetite?
- Stay Healthy the Easy Way
- Boost Your Energy: Hour by Hour
- 5 Healthy Foods That Wreck Your Teeth
- Stone Age Diet Surprisingly Good For a Healthy Life Today
- Beat Your Afternoon Energy Slump
- Small Healthy Habits With Big Health Benefits
- 5 Fast Breakfasts That Boost Your Health
- Apples Are the New Fish
- Watermelon: Summer's Antioxidant
- Are All Omega-3 Fats The Same?
- Sample a Semi-Vegetarian Lifestyle With a Flexitarian Diet
- Milk: When the First Food May Be the Best Food
- How to Lose Weight Safely
- Salt Sensitivity Issue: Salt Restriction
- An Update on Soy: It's Just So-So
- Seeds of Life: Chia, Flax, Hemp and Pumpkin
- Why and How to Get More Vitamin D
- Healthy Snacks for Energy
- Healthy Eating Tips for a Busy Lifestyle
- Olive Oil and Health
- Enjoy the Health Benefits of Tea
Copyright © 2012 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.