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Science Says Listening To Sad Songs Can Make Us Happier

Science Says Listening To Sad Songs Can Make Us Happier

If you’ve ever experienced the bittersweet sensation of being caught in a miserable music feedback loop – e.g. listening to some of Bjork’s more heartbreaking ballads following a break-up, or diving headfirst into the back catalogue of The Smiths whenever you’ve had a bad day – then you might just breathe a sigh of relief: you might be more normal than you maybe first worried about.

While music has often been linked to patterns and changes in the way that our brains process – it can make us way more productive, given the right kind of track, for example – and how it affects our behaviour, it can also be found to work on helping us process unconscious thoughts and emotions.

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Research from various studies has found that our preference for moody, sad songs isn’t just down to the likelihood of listening to them when you’re on the outs. Sad music can in fact act as a mood stabiliser, an emotional support, and even a catharsis inducer, through the power of its generally mellow mood and often reflective, emotionally-invested and soul-searching lyrics.

You probably feel better for feeling worse

For example, Taruffi & Koelsch (2014), a Berlin-based research team, found that conversely to popular opinion, positive feeling (i.e. happiness, calmness, peace) was correlated with listening to typically sad music. The research team asked 772 participants across the globe to describe why they liked the songs they liked to listen to when in times of sadness or low mood, such as following the break-up of a relationship. Taruffi told The Huffington Post: “The most frequent emotion evoked was nostalgia, which is a bittersweet emotion — it’s more complex and it’s partly positive,” Taruffi said. “This helps explain why sad music is appealing and pleasurable for people.”

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The research team summarised that: “This is the first comprehensive survey of music-evoked sadness, revealing that listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation. Such beneficial emotional effects constitute the prime motivations for engaging with sad music in everyday life.” In short, listening to negative and sad music makes us feel better because we can use as an emotional outlet. There’s a reason why people are encouraged to listen to sad music when they’re sad; the music connects with the mood of the listener and allows them to express their emotions in a healthy way. Better than that, sad music also encourages empathy, as listeners not only connect with their own emotions, but with that of the musician, and through that, other people who have gone through the same situation, increasing empathy. The research additionally found that happy music for people in a positive mood had similar benefits, but were significantly smaller when compared to the sad music group of the study.

Getting over yourself

Sad music also provides us with catharsis – a painful but necessary and overall positive emotional purification – that is essential to healthy emotional behaviour. For years, science has provided evidence that crying can be a great way to provide catharsis and a positive mood boost, and sad music can facilitate the kind of emotional journey that allows you to let it all go and feel better as a result.

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Finally, sad music can develop strong emotional connections with us – even when we’re not feeling particularly sad. Elizabeth Margulis, author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, said: “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 short, we form attachments to songs we connect to on a personal and subjective level, and so we are much more likely to listen to them repeatedly or in a great number over a shorter period of time. You might be in a good place and feeling happy, and yet find yourself listening to the new Adele song or Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ a fair amount; this doesn’t mean you’re secretly melancholic – it might just mean that you’re working on your empathy muscles, or maybe just enjoying a song that really speaks to your heart. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Featured photo credit: A. and I. Kruk via shutterstock.com

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

13 Best Board Games For Adults To Play During Quarantine

13 Best Board Games For Adults To Play During Quarantine

This pandemic has forced many of us to be in our own homes for an indeterminate amount of time. And needless to say, many of us have been feeling the effects of self-isolation and quarantine for a while.

That said, one thing that can take us from that edge is board games. Board games have evolved a lot since we were little and have given rise to a wide variety of classics that have been released in the past decade or two. For this list, we are looking at some of the best board games for adults that avoid some of the classics and introduce new and exciting board games to try out.

Qualifications For Best Board Games

Before hopping into the best board games we have to offer, here are the measures that we’ve taken when putting together this list. With these things in mind, you’ll be sure to be entertained with these board games.

  • Length – How long does it take to play through the game? Some games tend to lose their excitement after a while and drag on. These board games don’t for various reasons.
  • Engagement – The level of interaction that you have with other players and on the board is important. Makes the game fun, entertaining, and exciting to play no matter how long it takes to play through a round.
  • Complexity – From the rules down to the number of pieces, you want to ensure the complexity of the game isn’t too overwhelming. We’ve picked out games that have a learning curve, but not so much that it takes a long time to get the hang of it.
  • Rules – The rules should be written clearly and have a small amount of them. You want to be hopping into the game and not be forced to remember too many rules or constantly check the rule book for reference.
  • Players involved – Every person has a different living situation in quarantine. Some have a family, while others may be isolated on their own or with one other person. You want board games to be versatile and still playable whether there is only yourself or you have three or more other people with you.

1. Best Board Games Overall: Azul

    The first on our list of best board games for adults is Azul. It’s a relatively new board game and involves tile laying. The idea with Azul is you are racing with other players to decorate the wall of a fictional Portugeuse Palace. This game strikes a balance between strategy and planning your moves to being efficient.

    Even if it doesn’t sound that exciting at first, getting into the game you’ll find the strategy of this game to be complex enough that you can play it several times over. The mark of a great board game for sure.

    Buy Azul here.

    2. Best Board Games For Strategy: Splendor

      If you want more strategy involved in your game, we recommend trying out Splendor. It’s a highly rated strategy game amongst the board game community where each player is working towards building a jewelry empire. You do this through developing mines, collecting gems, and eventually opening up a storefront to sell these gems.

      The goal of the game is to have the most successful business in the end. To get there you’ll need to compete with other players over resources as well as infrastructure.

      The rules are straightforward making it easy to pick up, but there are many strategies you can go with this game. On top of that, its the type of game where your decisions can impact the course of the game in future turns.

      Buy Splendor here.

      3. Best Game For Cooperation: Pandemic

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        Much on the nose with this game – but great to play regardless – is Pandemic. This cooperative game pushes you to join intellectual forces with other players to stop the spread of diseases.

        In order to do this, each player takes on a role and collaborates to devise new treatment strategies. Going to different cities across the globe, you’ll collect cards that’ll help in treating outbreaks in certain hotspots.

        Overall, it’s a strategy based game as players have to plan out their moves carefully and are restricted in what they can do based on their role.

        Buy Pandemic here.

        4. Best Board Games With Trading: Catan

          Most circles call this game Settlers Of Catan, this is a classic game that is a delight to play with not much pressure. The premise of the game is to expand territory on settlements, roads, and cities. How you do this is through using resources like wood, stone and brick.

          How you get these resources is based on what areas you have roads or buildings. But more often than not, you’ll find yourself short on the resources that you need. This is where trading is involved where you are able to trade resources with other players.

          The rule book for this game can seem intimidating, however, it’s straightforward as you can tell. This game brings trading resources and interacting with other people in a unique way.

          Buy Catan here.

          5. Best Board Games For Larger Groups: 7 Wonders

            Whether you have a small or a large group, 7 Wonders is a solid game to try out. Most on this list are a four player game at maximum, 7 Wonders can have up to 7 players at a time. For this game, the length of the game is divided into three “ages”. During each age, you’ll be collecting cards that’ll help you build one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Each of these wonders will either have immediate or latent benefits to them.

            The goal overall is to have your civilization reign supreme. That said, there is no issue with taking a page from Catan and trading resources with players right next to you. You can even sell off your resources or even share insider knowledge and research if you like. The game is very easy to understand and games can last about 30 minutes making it a nice quick game regardless of player count.

            Buy 7 Wonders here.

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            6. Best Board Game For Long Games: Ticket To Ride

              Another classic and one of the best board games for adults out there is Ticket To Ride. This is a game that is brought up many times amongst board game users. Part of that reason may be due to the fact it has similarities to the older board game Monopoly.

              The only difference with Ticket To Ride is you’re building a railway system instead with way more tension in it. The goal is to collect the most points through placing a like-colored set of train cards on the board and connecting them to cities, building longer routes and building the longest continuous railway system by the end.

              Whether you are new to board games or a veteran, this is one of the best ones to try it out. The rule book is slim with only four pages long and two of them are illustrations. You can even get Amazon Alexa to both teach and play along with you.

              Buy Ticket To Ride here.

              7. Best Board Games For Short Games: Dominion

                Card-drawing board games are often the kind of games that go by quickly and one that comes to mind is Dominion. It’s medieval-themed where you start with 10 copper and estate cards. The goal of the game is amassing the most victory and treasure cards as you can which in turn allows you to buy even more valuable expensive cards.

                During the game, there are many cards that interact with another and with other players. For example, there are cards that allow you to look at other players’ hands and make various decisions, for better or worse.

                The game is similar to the story of a man who starts off with something small and benign and traded his way to something massive and expensive.

                Buy Dominion here.

                8. Best Card-Based Game: Boss Monster

                  While this isn’t exactly a board game, it is card based and is a lot of fun. It plays out similarly to dungeon crawlers where wizards, warriors, clerics, and rogues go into dungeons to slay the boss at the end. The only difference is that you are playing the boss now and need to stop the heroes from getting to you.

                  How you do this is by setting up your rooms with traps that deal damage to the heroes as they travel to each floor. You’ve also got spells to enhance your traps. This is on top of building your dungeon up in a way that the heroes would want to go there.

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                  There is a lot of strategy and planning involved with this game, however it’s one of the most straightforward games with plenty of replayability. Each game is going to be different than the last.

                  Buy Boss Monster here.

                  9. Best Board Games For Sleuths: Codenames

                    For small or large groups, codenames is a fun game where you divide yourself into two teams. From those teams, you’ll elect a “spymaster” who will then provide word clues to assist their team in identifying a secret word associated with that team. The secret words are based on seemingly random words provided from this game.

                    The catch with this game is that your clues can only be one word long, requiring the teams to think quickly and the spymaster to think strategically about the code words to get people to guess the proper code word.

                    Buy Codenames here.

                    10. Best Board Games For Two: Sequence

                      While there are certainly other board games that incorporate cards in them, Sequence is one to use them both in a unique way. In this game, players take turns putting down a card followed by a chip on the corresponding spot. The objective of this game is to have five chips, or sequences, in a row. Another way to describe the game is this is a larger and sophisticated version of Tic-Tac-Toe.

                      It’s good for two people, but considering the size of the board, you can get others involved too. The more players involved can add more layers of strategy and competition to it.

                      Buy Sequence here.

                      11. Best Board Games Solo: Geode Puzzles

                        While this isn’t a board game either, puzzles can be a lot of fun to do if you have spare time. While you can pick up any kind of puzzle, one that is nice for adults is geode puzzles.

                        Depending on the type of geode puzzles you get, some of them will have more unique and intricate pieces compared to traditional puzzle pieces. Furthermore, geode puzzles require more concentration and thought to them since they have specific patterns to them. It adds a layer of challenge to them since traditional pieces you can refer to the box art or where everything is placed.

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                        Buy Geode Puzzles here.

                        12. Best Board Games For Adults Who Love Nature: Wingspan

                          For those looking for a birds-eye view of nature, Wingspan is a great game with hours of entertainment. The art direction with this board game is especially unique while the gameplay provides hours of entertainment.

                          In the game, you are responsible for fostering a mini-ecosystem and building out a chain of wildlife preserves across four habitats. How you do this is by allocating food tokens found in bird feeder dice towers and eggs through unique playing cards. Each species has its own needs and special abilities so you’ll need to manage all of that while reaching your goal.

                          Buy Wingspan here.

                          13. Best Board Games For Adults Who Want Something Different: The Mind

                            A game that takes about 15 minutes to play but is incredibly interesting is The Mind. It’s similar to the card game Kent, but adds another level to it. In it, you’re playing cards from your hand in order (Ace, two, three, four…).

                            The catch with this game though is that players aren’t allowed to say anything about what is in their hand and you are forced to come up with your own non-verbal language in order to communicate with one another.

                            As simplistic of a game as it is, it’s a completely different one since it involves no talking at all and forces you to meld your minds together to complete this task.

                            Buy The Mind here.

                            Final Thoughts

                            Board games used to be simplistic in nature with games like Mouse Trap, Scrabble, Monopoly, and many others. Since those times, board games have expanded to more fun and exciting games that can provide hours of entertainment. There are hundreds out there, but we recommend looking at some of these best board games for adults to try out and enjoy.

                            Featured photo credit: Christopher Paul High via unsplash.com

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