The short answer is this, people love being sad because sadness provides more reflection on their lives than happiness does. When you are happy you tend to get lost in your happiness but when you are sad, you tend to contemplate on your life choices and decisions in a more in depth way.
Some may say that only sadists are prone to loving the comfort that sadness brings but that is not true. Sadists don’t get their name from the actual emotion of sadness. According to psychologists, a sadist is someone who enjoys the act of inflicting pain on others for personal enjoyment, typically of a sexual nature. It can however breach far outside of the bedroom, manifesting into forms of bullying and intimidation in everyday life.
Sadness is one of the six core emotions, the rest are happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.
Human beings love being sad so much that there are millions upon millions of sad songs in the world. The most popular songs are bound to have some form of sad vibe to them. Even the most popular artists are known of creating sad music, this are the likes of Adele and the group bands such as One Direction and The Smiths.
Sad songs are so popular that Spotify has built an algorithm that aims to quantify the amount of sadness in a music track. The streaming service has collected metadata on each of 35 million songs in their database, accessible through their web API, that includes a valence score for every track, from 0 to 1. “Tracks with high valence sound more positive (eg happy, cheerful, euphoric), while tracks with low valence sound more negative (eg sad, depressed, angry)”, according to Spotify.
This goes so far to show how attractive sad songs are to us. Sadness is just as important to us as happiness is, there is no denying the fact that you wouldn’t know what happiness is if sadness didn’t exist. This is why Swahili people always say, “Mzigo wa mwenzio ni kanda la usufi” – which is a proverb that means – a man’s problem can’t be understood by another man. It is also used to imply that unless you have gone through a sad experience you won’t be able to understand its implication and why being on the other side of the sadness is a privilege.
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”― Jonathan Safran Foer
Studies have shown that, contrary to being an ‘unproductive’ emotion, sadness is beneficial to us in ways that actually enhance our well-being. Joseph Paul Forgas, Ph.D., has discovered that when we are sad, we can remember details more accurately, have better judgment, and have more motivation than when we are happy.
This seems to be due in part to sadness functioning as a signal that something is not right, making us more attentive to detail, more alert to social cues, and/or more motivated to make changes.
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The reasons why we love being sad
I don’t know about you but there is nothing more comforting and reassuring than sad music. There is also nothing more comforting than wallowing in your sadness as it drowns your mind with various thoughts. This is because sadness gives your body a signal that something isn’t right and that you should jump into action to fix it.
In the Ted Talk below, Sandra Garrido talks about sad music and the reasons why we like it so much. Dr. Sandra Garrido is a pianist, a violinist and a researcher. With a background in both music and psychology she completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales in 2012. Her post-doctoral research at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions concerned the use of music in depression in both the modern day and historically.
Sadness is therapeutic, whether it be through sad songs, sad movies or just ‘depressive’ reminiscing. Happiness tends to make you forget about the worries of life. It pushes you away from reality, that is why people say happiness is more fleeting than sadness.
Sadness is almost always ever present. It rarely goes away and when it does it always finds a way to come back. It is part of who we are. It is part of our biological defense mechanisms that enable us to stay alive by helping us reflect on our lives and all the decisions we are making.
People have always speculated that there’s some correlation between sadness and creativity, so that people who are a little bit miserable (think Van Gogh, or Virginia Woolf) are also the most innovative. And in recent studies and research, it has been proven to be true.
Joe Forgas, a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has spent the last decade investigating the surprising benefits of negative moods. According to Forgas, angst and sadness promote “information-processing strategies best suited to dealing with more-demanding situations.” This helps explain why test subjects who are melancholy – Forgas induces the mood with a short film about death and cancer – are better at judging the accuracy of rumors and recalling past events; they’re also much less likely to stereotype strangers and make fewer arithmetic mistakes.
This is why you will hear people refer to depression/mental illness as “the gift of the Muse”. However, it is not a gift, depression is a condition that burdens a lot of creative people, it also in turn results in more creative thinking thereby causing them to create amazing works of art.
Its a form of catharsis
Sadness as a form of catharsis basically means that when you are sad you end up being motivated and liberated by the sadness to move away from your own repressed emotional state. Happiness rarely pushes you to do something. It is the need to avoid sadness that makes you move forward thereby resulting in you being happy.
Catharsis helps us deal with our emotions by being aware of them and using them to fuel our liberation to be better.
It provides comfort
We relate to people easily when we can empathize with what they are going through. Sadness is more of a means of connecting with people. It provides us with this feeling of understanding that people get what we are going through.
Sad songs make us believe that we are not alone, that others are going through the same things. Its comforting. Makes us feel understood by others and that we are not freaks who are damaged but just humans who are going through things that are just normal to the human condition.
This is one of the negative sides of why people love being sad. Sadness demands nothing of us. It is easy to stay still and wallow in our pain than it is to get off our ass and make a change. To be happy would mean that we would have to put in the work to rectify our situations, while on the other hand sadness just wants you to stay there and experience it.
You do not need to chase sadness, sadness is always there, all you have to do is just feel.
The victim mentality is a condition that is largely attributed to individuals who choose to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, lack self confidence, love negative self talk and exhibit a sense of powerlessness. The victim mentality is based on the belief that
- Bad things happen and will keep happening.
- Other people or circumstances are to blame.
- Any efforts to create change will fail, so there’s no point in trying.
Choosing to wallow in sadness is sometimes a sign of someone who has a victim mentality. Someone who always feels victimized wouldn’t want to change their circumstances because they believe it is out of their control, that they are not responsible for being in the situation they are in, and in turn, won’t be responsible for getting themselves out.
The downside to the people who love being sad
It has been known for quite some time that chronic stress and sadness may result into depression. As the sadness keeps taking hold in your mental, it will result in a form of emotional distortion and cognitive dissonance that will over the long term cause mental illness to set in.
That is why it is important to always find a balance in your life to protect your emotional health. This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Emotional intelligence is so important to your mental health because through it, you will find ways of dealing with tremendous emotions that may sometimes overwhelm you.
By learning the 4 emotional intelligence skills needed to strengthen your emotional health, you will be able to take control of your feelings so that they don’t overwhelm you and eventually control you. This skills include: self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management.
To find out how to foster them, read my previous article on “THE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE SKILLS YOU NEED“
Practicing mindfulness, meditation and just listening to music that encourages you to get off your ass will be more beneficial to you than wallowing in your self pity. As much as sadness does help us get more in touch with our deeper feelings and emotions, we should remember that too much of anything is dangerous.