5 Reasons Why Watching Tearjerker Movies Feel So Good

Picture of By Nouhaila Morjani

By Nouhaila Morjani

Everyone has done it, slipping a tear while watching a movie. Maybe you are ashamed of it, or you think this is a wonderful outlet. In any case, crying while watching a movie is perfectly normal. They’re called tearjerkers, and the name says it all. They’re movies full of love, tragedy and emotions. Whether you seek out sad films or not, the question is: why is watching tearjerkers so good for you?

It increases our empathy

A tearjerker movie is often filled with negative events that may cause uncomfortable moods and feelings.

A tearjerker movie is often filled with negative events that may cause uncomfortable moods and feelings. It is therefore strange that we love to watch these kind movies. There has been some research done on this topic and according to a study done by Reinecke (1993), the theoretical construction of meta-emotions can explain why feeling negative emotions  has a positive value. This sounds difficult but is actually quite logical. Simplified it means that negative emotions can turn positive when it contains a trait that is considered socially desirable. An example: When someone experiences something hurtful, you (hopefully) empathize with that person. This feeling of empathy feels nice and thus the hurtful event is now interpreted positively. This exact thing happens when we watch tearjerker. We get that warm fuzzy feeling called empathy and this satisfies us in a way we feel happier afterwards. So it’s obvious we feel good after watching a tearjerker because who doesn’t love feeling warm and fuzzy inside?

It can be used as an outlet to express our feelings

Showing you’re not doing so well is often difficult to express for some people. Therefore it isn’t uncommon for people to watch sad movies, when they already feel upset. Watching a sad movie when feeling sad feels  good because the film that is shown is in agreement with our internal feelings. We use sad movies to face our own difficult situations and emotions. When feeling identification with a character, we can cope better with the situation. Imagine just going through a break up while watching a movie about a break up, there is something really soothing about that. Researchers found a relation between sad and cheerful movies. Apparently, pain that is caused from watching tragedy can trigger the endorphin system which increases our happiness. This is the same process as when watching a cheerful movie. When watching a cheerful movie those endorphin levels increase because of feelings of social bonding. Tear jerkers can act like an outlet for those emotions but can also cure a bit of your sad emotions which can be really helpful during a break up. 

It puts things into perspective

Watching a sad movie or a movie without a happy ending can bring us back to the real world. We often forget that we actually have it quite good here. We all sometimes complain about silly things. Your shoes aren’t matching your outfit, or far worse; you’re having a bad hair day. Is that zit really that bad, or are you overreacting a bit? Seeing another’s tragedy can really put your life into perspective. But it is also easier to feel sad about the events in a movie than being sad about tragic events or trauma in your own life. When watching a movie, we get confronted by a constant fact that we actually know that this isn’t really happening. This doesn’t stop us at all, but the fantasy aspect can distract from other problems in real life. 

It makes us feel less lonely

Like other movies, people can create parasocial relationships with the characters when watching these movies. when watching tear jerker movies, this feeling is increased. Why is forming a parasocial relationship easier when watching a tearjerker movie? This is actually quite obvious since parasocial relations are created when viewers care about the characters. This emotional investment is achievable through the various displays of tragedy the characters have to endure. I have to admit, I have also felt a little too close to some characters on How I Met Your Mother.  Emotional investment in someone (even if that someone is a fictional character) can make us feel less lonely, which increases our overall mood. 

Crying relieves distress

Crying may be just what you need after a bad day to feel better.

Crying is something we have all done during a tearjerker movie (i know you have) and this is actually perfectly normal. When watching the characters suffer, this can lead to unpleasant feelings that can be expressed in tears. This sobbing is explained by a study that was done by Efran and Spangler (1979). They argued that we cry because we release those unpleasant feelings and not because we’re actually sad from the movie. Crying during a film is a relief from negative feelings and emotions that can leave us feeling better in the end. Crying may be just what you need after a bad day to feel better. So sad movies that make us feel sad and cry can make us feel good in the end. Which is a perfectly good reason to watch the Notebook for the 6th time right?


Cover: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Edited by: Andreea Rebegea

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