This article is part of a series of articles unpacking different emotions. It is inspired by Andrew Fuller’s book, ‘A to Z of Feelings’.
Sadness often arises in times of uncertainty when something in our life changes and we need to change something about ourselves or the way we do things. Because of the pain it can cause, it is tempting to push the sadness aside by seeking pleasures to distract ourselves or masking it with other feelings such as bitterness, anger and hate. It takes courage to face sadness, to feel the hurt and pain it can cause. If you can bear to sit with it for a while, it has lessons to teach us. Knowing not to be scared of sadness but to acknowledge its reality allows us to live a full life. Without truly experiencing sadness, our joys and pleasures would not feel authentic.
Sadness can feel isolating and lonely but it also has the potential to connect people in powerful ways. We become more in touch with the problems of others. We can feel a deeper sense of empathy towards their experience. In many ways, shared sadness is the bedrock of a great friendship. Sadness is not just a connection with others but also a connection with meaning and loss. It can be a time where you cherish what has been and feel sad for its passing but you are also acutely aware of its value in your life. Sadness makes us aware that things are precious and don’t last forever. There are moments where we can almost enjoy the sensitivity of sadness.
There is an emphasis in society today on living a cheerful and happy life. Therefore, when we feel sad, we can believe that something is not right with us. That we need to be ‘cured’ or ‘cheer up’. In reality, we have a range of emotions for a reason. There is a time to be sad, a time to be angry, a time to be happy and we should learn to use our wide range of emotions to effectively respond to the events in our lives. Sadness is not a problem, it is often the right response to an event that has taken place in your life.
Hopelessness, grief, loss, confused, disappointment, failure, pessimism, guilt, boredom, tiredness, inferiority, unloved, lonely, inadequate, ignored, unappreciated, undervalued, abandoned, rejected, depression
What you can do that helps
- Sadness can isolate us and make us feel lonely. The truth is that sadness does not single any of us out. There are sad pieces of music, sad poems and sad works of art for a reason. In them, we can find pockets of our own griefs, reminding us that our sadness belongs within all of humanity and not just within us.
- Recognise that you don’t have to ‘cheer up’. People around you might be quick to say things such as you’re strong, life is great, things could be worse and encourage you to smile. Although well intentioned, these efforts to cheer you up may not align with the reality of your feelings. It can help to, instead of focusing on cheering up, recognise that life is very challenging. It isn’t easy, we won’t always be happy but that is part of being a human. Altering your perspective can alleviate that stressful feeling that something is wrong and we need to hurriedly find happiness to be right again. In fact, quite the opposite, your sadness could be perfectly right as it prepares you for the next sense of possibility in your life.
- If the sadness is becoming too great, find healthy sources of ‘flow’. We experience ‘flow’ when we get involved in an activity that captivates us. At the end of these types of activities people often think, ‘Where did the time go?’ There are many sources of flow – computer games, sports, drawing, dancing, running, reading, swimming and surfing are some. These are the things that you do that absorb you and take you away from your day-to-day cares and worries. Losing yourself in a few pleasurable but healthy activities that challenge you is highly protective. This might feel a little forced to begin with but make an effort to stick at it.
Wishing you well on your wellbeing journey!