Gina Vaynshteyn
November 08, 2014 1:27 pm

So, you get broken up with. It hurts. It hurts a lot. It hurts so much, you can’t possibly think of leaving your bed and doing normal, every day human activities. Showers? Agonizing. Going to school? Torture. All you want to do is cry, eat chocolate, cry some more, and probably listen to some sad songs on repeat. We’ve all been there, girl.

If you think about it, listening to sorrowful tunes seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we strive to surround ourselves with positivity and happiness? Maybe not. Freie Universitat Berlin researchers surveyed 772 people from all over the world, hoping to find out why people listen to sad songs during breakups. According to Huffington Post, “Of the 470 participants who gave specific instances of when sad music is appealing, 108 reported lost relationships.” The second most popular reason to listen to sad music was when one was grieving for loved one who passed away.

Here’s what the researchers put together: after playing sad music for people who have gone through a break-up, they experience “four different cognitive rewards of music-evoked sadness,” which are imagination, emotional regulation, empathy, and a sense of fantasy. Basically, your brain LIKES sad music because it makes it feel like whatever you are going through is an artistic, fictitious experience: “Through the music, you can appreciate the negative emotions conveyed by the artists without actually having to experience the ‘real life’ consequence of their sadness.”

Not only is that pretty neat, it makes total sense. When we listen to “Don’t Think Twice” by Bob Dylan, we subconsciously put ourselves in his shoes and imagine what he must be going through. Or when “Stay” by Rihanna comes on the radio — we envision the emotional hardships she must be feeling. We are indulging in our emotions, and it IS actually healing us in the process.

If you’re going through a breakup, or if you just really like sad songs, here a few that will definitely help you out in these tough times:

1. “She’s Got You” by Cat Power (a Patsy Cline cover)

This track describes the heart-wrenching experience of watching someone you used to date, date someone else. You still have their old things and your memories together, but his new SO has him. And it sucks.

2. “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak

Oh, Chris Isaak. You broody ’90s babe. It’s hard falling in love with people we know are going to break our hearts, isn’t it?

3. “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by Stars

One of the most beautiful songs in all of song history, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” centers on trying to forget that one person who trampled on your heart.

4. “How Soon is Now” by The Smiths

If sadness needed an emperor, it would be Morrissey. All the way. This classic deals with feeling rejected and the innate need to be loved (even though love can sometimes go home with someone else who is NOT you, and leave you even more rejected. Ugh. Life).

5. “Linger” by The Cranberries

Sometimes it’s the ones who hurt us most who we want, and it’s just the pits. Especially when they keep leading us on (NOT COOL).

6. “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by She & Him (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover)

Zooey’s voice breaks my heart every single time I listen to this song. It’s so, so evocative and beautifully sad. It’s horrible when the person we want to comfort us is also the person who is doing the damage.

7. “The Heart Wants What it Wants” by Selena Gomez

The Internet is right: this song is DEVASTATING. Whether it’s about Justin Bieber or not, I just want to hug Selena forever and tell her it’s going to be okay. Stupid heart and how it wants what wants!

8. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt

This iconic break-up song is actually about Gwen Stefani and band member Tony Kanal, and it’s crazy that they performed it together. I guess most of us are lucky that we’re not in a band with our exes.

9. “Terrible Love” by The National

This surreal, incredibly gorgeous song is endlessly powerful and moving. I’ll never forget the lyrics: “It takes an ocean / not to break,” because sometimes it does take something tremendous to pull us out of that dark funk.

10. “Don’t Die in Me” by Mirah

This folk song is so wonderful and really speaks to that part of ourselves that never does want to let go, no matter what.

11. “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis

Although I don’t know what Leona Lewis is doing these days (OK, OK, I guess I can just Google it), I do know that this song was and will always be my mantra whenever I’m down. Because no matter what anyone tells you, no matter how many times you hear, “It’ll get better,” you’ll still feel like you heart is just gushing sadness. And there isn’t much you can do about it except ride it out. I do promise everything will be okay. And if you’re feeling like someone just smashed your heart into little pieces, it looks like indulging in some sad songs helps. So you do you, boo.

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