How Tearjerkers Make You Happy to Be Sad

April 14, 2012 | By | Comments (1)

Fresh news, from the department of The Upsides to Real Downers:

A new study, in a forthcoming issue of the journal Communications Research, teases out why watching depressing —where lovers are torn apart, families grieve, fight, or dissolve, women and children are in peril, or any and all maudlin, movie-of-the-week topics—actually makes many people feel…HAPPY.

According to the researchers at Ohio State University, “watching a tragedy movie caused people to think about their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness. The result was that what seems like a negative experience – watching a sad story – made people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives.”

Turns out that themes like eternal love prompts people to think about all the people in their life who they love and count their blessings, leading to a greater increase in their overall contentment. The key to effect is that the viewer must ponder their own relationships as a result of watching the movie—not just the idea that “Oh my life isn’t as bad as these people!”

Simply put: the more you consider your connections as you cry, the bigger the boost in happiness later.

My only criticism of this admittedly small study was their very limited choice of films in the study. In fact, all the participants watched was an abridged version of the movie Atonement.

Sure, it’s a sad one….but I’d wager that the classic weepies Terms of Endearment or Beaches could elicit a whole lot of (happy) tears.

What’s your favorite weepy? And does crying at a movie make you feel better or worse?