The weather patterns that define seasons are often associated with feelings. For example, summer is typically associated with sunshine and happiness while winter is associated with rainy days and sadness. This observation led me to wonder if people’s music tastes change seasonally too.
A study done by the University of Berlin found that participants tended to listen to sad songs when the weather was windy or rainy. Then that leads to the question, why do people associate windy or rainy days with sadness?
According to Tecsia Evans, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist based in San Francisco, light naturally increases the brain’s serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. When the weather is windy or rainy, the outside atmosphere tends to be dark, which lowers serotonin and causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
As I thought more about this, I was puzzled by why human beings are more inclined to listen to sad music when they are already feeling down. Wouldn’t more upbeat music cheer them up?
However, a study done by Frontiers in Psychology found that participants who listened to sad music while upset or distressed romanticized the feelings of sadness that the artist was expressing, which therefore invoked positive feelings in the listener.
When feeling blue, it would make sense that people are inclined to romanticize this same emotion in others since they directly relate to it. Human beings, by nature, are social and do not enjoy feeling isolated in their experiences. When others feel the exact same way that they do, humans naturally feel as though their experience is normal and, in turn, feel bonded to that other person. The process of finding emotional connections brings people a sense of accomplishment since they are fulfilling their basic need of socialization.
If sad music helps people feel happy, wouldn’t people listen to it all year round? Well, in 2017 Spotify and Accuweather ran a study that proved that people felt more inclined to listen to upbeat music during the sunnier seasons, showing that humans are not reliant on sad music for their serotonin boost all year.
This may be due to the Evans’ findings that the brain is already producing serotonin when the sun’s light is brighter, meaning that people do not feel the need to relate to sadness when they are in this state.
Being in a positive headspace does not mean that people no longer benefit from listening to music. Research conducted by the University of Canada showed that when research subjects listened to upbeat music, they became in-tune with positive memories, further improving their mood.
In all, listening to music that supports a human being’s state of mind reinforces positive emotions. Emotional patterns change with the weather, and therefore, so does the emotional reinforcement that is needed. In order to receive said reinforcement, people tend to adjust their music tastes to the season.