I have listened to “Hello” — Adele’s newest Grammy winner single — at least 20 times. And I have no intention of stopping.
Just when I think I’m done and ready to switch to something happier, something reels me back. It doesn’t even matter that I’m not going through heartbreak, or a bad day, I can’t help but get lost in the lyrics and listen to it again. And again. And then again one more time.
Sound familiar? Many of us have been guilty of blasting a song a million times. But we’re not masochists – at least according to science. Music has a notoriously powerful influence on our emotions. Here are just a few research-backed reasons why we keep pressing play.
Sad music makes us feel calm.
There’s a reason we always turn to sappy ballads when we’re feeling low. A 2014 study published in the journal PLOS One found that listening to blue tunes actually creates positive feelings – like peacefulness — in the listener. The researchers discovered that those who listened to the sad music also experienced more empathy because they felt connected to the sadness of the music’s artist but experienced no “real life implications” of the sad event. This may also explain why we gravitate toward downer music after a breakup.
It makes us cry — and that can feel therapeutic.
Sometimes music goes as far as triggering a tear (or many tears) when we listen to it. This overwhelming reaction is rooted in human behavior and at times can even be super cathartic. A recent study suggests that a good cry boosts our mood. Researchers found that 90 minutes after participants cried, they reported feeling better than they did before they had a reason to cry.
Our brains develop an attachment to it.
We connect to things when they feel personal — and music is certainly no exception. Add this to some simple brain science and you have a powerful combination: Attachment and repetition.
“Musical repetition gets us mentally imagining or singing through the bit we expect to come next,” Elizabeth Margulis, author of the recent book On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, told Mic. “A sense of shared subjectivity with the music can arise. In descriptions of their most intense experiences of music, people often talk about a sense that the boundary between the music and themselves has dissolved.”
In other words, we relate, we press play, then the cycle starts all over again. Our brains just can’t help it. So if you need me, I’ll be hitting play on “Hello” for the 21st time — shamelessly.
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