The Hard Facts: Your Happiest Sobfest

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“New research has found that tragic films can actually make us feel happierThe findings, published in the journal Communication Research, suggest that those tearjerkers have a way of bringing our attention to important relationships in our lives.” (“Why We Love Tearjerkers”; 3/27/2012)

I sort of hate tearjerkers.

Except Beaches, of course. And A League of Their Own. And Man on the Moon. And Grey’s Anatomy. Private Practice.

So….yeah. Maybe I don’t hate them all. But I rarely sign up for them. I’ve never seen Terms of Endearment or The Notebook, mostly because I’m never in the mood to sit for two hours and come out the other end a sobbing puddle of lunacy.

Turns out, according to this latest research, that indulging in a little sob fest will actually make me happier. It will make me think about all the people I love–my family, my husband, my friends–and count my blessings.

According to the Science Daily article about this phenomenon, “The more [the study participants] thought about their loved ones, the greater the increase in their happiness. Viewers who had self-centered thoughts concerning the movie — such as ‘My life isn’t as bad as the characters in this movie’– did not see an increase in their happiness.”

Point being, we get our happiness from thinking about others, not thinking about ourselves.

This is especially relevant research for me, as I seem to have an appointment to see that new Zac Efron/Nicholas Sparks film on Friday. I’ve never seen a Nicholas Sparks movie, which, I’ll admit, is a point of pride for me. But if it means a Friday night with my friends, then fine. I’ll go. Sobfests are indeed a girlfriend  affair. And now that I know the movie will make me happier, and more grateful for my pal, well…that’s double fab.

Plus, I’ll get some time with Zac Efron’s abs. So there’s that.

What’s the tearjerker that gives you your best cry?


Filed under The Search

43 responses to “The Hard Facts: Your Happiest Sobfest

  1. ohhhh Zac Efron’s abs are nothing compared to his eyes, and hair, and all around ridiculous borderline-inappropriate since he seems so youn – cuteness.

  2. I entirely agree about “sort of hating” tear jerkers. I would very rarely ever feel like I want to watch one, but when I do, I appreciate it somehow. In addition to making me appreciating my loved ones, I think tearjerkers and a good ol’ crying can be a bit of a release and a reboot… almost like bursting a balloon filled with stress if that makes sense?

  3. daisypierce16

    The ones that get me every time are: the Notebook, Life as a House, A Walk to Remember, and What Dreams May Come. Sometimes Big Fish gets me, too. I highly recommend them if you want a good story/sobfest.

    • Laura

      Absolutely, My Girl still makes me cry more than 20 years later. I’m a crybaby with movies (and TV) so it doesn’t take much. One lesser known movie that made me cry (but I loved it) was Moonlight and Valentino. Elizabeth Perkins loses her husband (that’s the beginning, not a spoiler) and she gets comfort over the coming days, months from her friends, especially her BFF played by Whoopi Goldberg. Loved it.

  4. I vote for a good comedy over a tear jerker anytime. I avoid anything about WWII (my uncle is buried in Normandy), Vietnam (my cousing was left for dead and too many did die), love relationships gone bad (no examples necessary there), hospitals (I often feel like I’ve a second address there), etc. I will never understand how people feel good because their own life could be worse. Maybe it’s just human and I am in denial.

  5. ChelseaO

    My favorites are: Titanic, Forrest Gump, Steal Magnolias, and Stepmom.

  6. Sometimes, even a kid’s cartoon will do it. If you’re gonna cry, you’re gonna cry – just have to warn the hubbie to get out of the house first…

  7. slowblossom

    Breaking the Waves. Emily Watson / Stellan Skarsgaard. The mysterious, sometimes bittersweet, power of love.

  8. I *always* cry at the end of Home Alone when old man Marley hugs his granddaughter.

    and Hook. when the little lost boy is examining robin williams’ face and says, “oh THERE you are, Peter!”

    and Cars. when mcqueen pushes the king over the finish line. embarrasing but true.

    so for me the article proves true! all about relationships!

  9. I can’t believe it took 8 comments for someone to mention Titanic! Most awesomely dramatic tearjerker since, I don’t know, Gone With The Wind or something?

    Also, obviously, the beginning of Up. And Toy Story 3. Thanks for the tears, Pixar.

  10. Shannon

    Steel Magnolias and A League of Their Own, for sure. The other movie that makes me SOB is Homeward Bound! When Shadow makes his way over the hill to get to Peter….ah, I could cry just thinking about it!

  11. There are so many!!! Steel Magnolias is definitely up there, Braveheart, A walk to remember, Pay it forward are definitely some good ones 😉

  12. Frume Sarah

    I am not surprised to see these research results. I hope that this isn’t too revealing but my husband long ago figured out that a tear-jerker was a sure way to get me in an amorous mood.

  13. I had a good cry or two while watching 50/50.

  14. Jennifer

    The Joy Luck Club is my #1 movie when I need a good cry.

  15. The top of the list is definitely Steel Magnolias, but just about anything by Nicholas Sparks will make you cry – The Notebook, A Walk to Remember. Beaches turns me into a puddle as soon as she starts showing symptoms. A film no one has so far mentioned is Fried Green Tomatoes, there are definitely some tears in there!

  16. I forgot about StepMom! Love that one!

  17. The Titantic. My sister and I saw it in the theatres oh so long ago and we had to leave by the back door we were crying so hard! It was hilarious actually. Anything Nicholas Sparks does on film will have you weeping (not so true of his actual books, though). Good luck at the movie..I have no doubt it will be a tearjerker!

  18. I like Fried Green Tomatoes. It’s hard to get tears out of me, but that movie helps me fondly think of my friends.
    Also, not at all in the tearjerker genre, but Baby Mama (for better or worse) really reminds me of some of my friends . . . the few friends I wouldn’t be shocked to see relieving themselves in the sink and thinking that’s OK.

  19. I’ll take a sobfest and Zac Effron abs any ole day! 🙂

  20. THE NOTEBOOK!!!! I booo hooooo every single time! I completely agree with this study. Although I love a good comedy (check out midnight in Paris I’ve already watched it 5 times!) a good cry makes you thankful for what you have! Really great study thanks for sharing:)

  21. Gosh, I’m a big girls blouse and cry at everything! Recently I shed a tear at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was a fab film. The Notebook, Titanic, The Jungle Book (the Disney cartoon), Lassie films … jeez, perhaps I really am a bit of a wuss!

  22. The Notebook!! Such a GREAT story! I can’t believe you wan’t seen it!! Aww it’s SoOOOooo Good!! 🙂 I’m a total mess everytime I watch it, but it’s worth it!

    Also, maybe this is random, but watching Ellen’s show makes me cry all the time. I think because she seems like such a wonderful person and she had to overcome adversity to get where she is today and she has, and I’m just SO happy for her! Also, she’s always doing things for other people and it’s so moving to see her connect and give other people get new hope when they need it most. *sigh* I actually stopped watching for a while because I was crying every day, which didn’t feel healthy… *haha

  23. My Best Friend’s Wedding…I’ve seen it 5 times…cry every time. It triggers a real “what might have been” memory.

  24. The musical version of Les Miserables. Just hearing some of the songs triggers a Pavlovian response to sob uncontrollably.

  25. It depends on the mood I’m in but Stepmom always makes me do the ugly cry. Steel Magnolias is another one guaranteed to do it. But Stepmom really does it. Every time.

  26. Sharita

    I’m curious. What would you rather have? A husband and a relationship or friends and no relationship?

    • Laura

      Why can’t one have both? It’s not an either or proposition. Each fulfills different needs.

      • Sharita

        You should be happy you found a suitable decent good educated husband, whom you can have a family with. A lot of women – me included- don’t have that luck. In this phase of your life a husband is more important than friends. Friends can come every stage in your life, but men, marriage, kids don’t. Count your blessings.

      • Sharita

        I also think you don’t realize how lucky you’re. Ethnic women don’t find easy a good husband contrary to caucasian woman. Your search for a friend is easy to realize even much later in your life. Like you, I started a search but not for a friend, but for a suitable husband, and I didn’t succeed. I can have as many friends a I want to, but they don’t replace a family life and a husband. Our search is more difficult than finding a friend. Count your blessings and don’t wine about the few friends you have.

  27. I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy through Netflix right now. I started just about 8 or 9 weeks ago and I’m in season 4. It’s made me cry about 1,000 times all ready. A few weeks ago my husband AND my counselor both mentioned that I take a break from Grey’s b/c of how sad it’s making me. Maybe I’m thinking too much about myself while watching??? Interesting study for sure! next time I’ll watch I’ll try to think abotu the hubs and my babies! =)

  28. I do sometimes watch a film because I know it will evoke a strong emotional response. Recently I watched “extremely loud & incredibly close” for this very reason.

  29. The English Patient, Sophie’s Choice, Moulin Rouge & Out of Africa are tear-jerker standbys for me (which I love but now, don’t feel so bad about… thanks for the study reference!) If it’s foreign, all the better (easier). Queen Margot is a perennial sob-fest.


    I can’t believe you have’t watched the Notebook!!!? It is a spectacular movie and must see. So brave up, get those tissues out and watch it!

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