Give us a call on +44 (0)20 3326 6289
Home Blog Well being Sad Movies Make Us Happier

Sad Movies Make Us Happier

We went to see the film About Time last week. If you haven't seen it, it's the new movie from Director, Richard Curtis, and it's about a young man who has the ability to time travel. Sounds strange? It is, but it also allows him to replay the things that don't go so well. In the end after facing some tough decisions (spoiler alert!) it has a brilliant positive psychology message. He stops replaying time, and just lives each day as if he has replayed it – looking out for the good every normal day brings. It struck us that it has a brilliant positive psychology message. That got us thinking about what we can learn about living happier lives from the movies.

Of course, immersing yourself in a movie is a great way to suspend reality and hide from the world for a while, and we all know from experience that certain movies leave you feeling uplifted and positive about life, but how do they do this? Can they teach us any lessons for living a happier life? We decided to see if anyone had conducted any research linking watching films to happiness.

There is a body of research carried out at Ohio State University, which has surprisingly found that watching sad movies makes us happier. Researchers had 361 college students watch the 2007 movie Atonement, which features two separated lovers who die as war casualties. Before and after the viewing, the participants were asked how happy they were with their life, and during the film they were also asked to rate their current emotional state.

The result? People who experienced the greatest increase in sadness during the movie reported increased life happiness after viewing it. They also rated the film as being better. The results appear in Communication Research. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, one of the researchers, explains:

"People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life, to count their blessings. That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce."

Previous psychological research has linked sadness with increased thoughtfulness. What's happening with sad movies, say the researchers, is that when they trigger a big enough emotional response, viewers begin to analyse their personal lives and appreciate them more, just like our character does in About Time. That in turn makes them happier. last year held the Positive Psychology Movie Awards 2012 and awarded Life of Pi with the Best Positive Psychology Film accolade, saying "Life of Pi, the film, is a visual feast in which virtually any theory, strength, or topic in positive psychology can be found." It lists other awards, such as Achievement, Acceptance, Vulnerability and Best Practitioner. We wonder if About Time will feature in the list of winners for 2013?

So perhaps the lessons to be learned from the movies, whatever emotion they trigger, are to be mindful of our own lives, to live in the moment and really appreciate what we have.

Well being


5 Ways you can Achieve Flow 18 April 2018, 00.00 Sharon
5 Ways you can Achieve Flow
Often described as a state of mind in which you can experience total immersion and involvement in what you’re doing, where things happen effortlessly and time disappears, flow is what athletes often call “being in the



Protect. Enable. Strengthen. Flourish. Your business is in their heads.