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It's OK to be sad

It's OK to be sad

19th of May, 2020

It is OK to be Sad

It is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and I have been doing a little thinking about some of the causes of some common mental health issues. 

There are many causes, but today I thought I would focus on the trend to feel more positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude and calmness.

In therapy one of the first things I ask of clients is to simply recognise what they are really experiencing and accept it – whatever it is.

There can be a lot of pressure to appear happy all the time.  If you spend time looking at other people’s Instagram or Facebook posts, you can wrongly assume that everyone is having a wonderfully happy time.  And this can make you feel lacking.

I am a big fan of practicing gratitude – but there’s always those moments when you are struggling to think anything around you is any good.

And calmness is hard to achieve when events outside you have caused you sorrow. 

Not dealing with sadness

Mental health issues can arise when we see sadness as unhealthy and wrong. 

And if the sadness comes from grief or loss of someone we love, then the feeling can even be overwhelming and scary.

Most of us are not taught how to look after ourselves during times of sadness and we try to avoid it.   

Too many of us focus on changing our mindsets and trying to be optimistic. Other methods of dealing with sad feelings can be to self-medicate with food, drink and substances, playing inane games on our phones or tablets, zoning out while watching TV, sleeping long hours, working long hours, or taking on numerous projects to distract ourselves.

Bottling up or ignoring our sadness does not make it go away. Instead, it stays and can express itself in unhealthy ways; it could lead to any sort of addictions which might include anything from alcohol to gambling to exercising to suppress your emotions.

Bottling up sadness can also shape our behaviour in relationships and can lead us to feeling disconnected from others. We might snap at a loved one or say something cruel. We might be sarcastic or cynical.

Dealing with sadness

But during these times of sadness, if it used constructively, sadness could actually help us. It is a valuable emotion. And it is so important that we take time out to listen to it.

I like to think of it as a communication from within.  A message containing information about what we are experiencing and what we need. It is the first step in fulfilling our desires and giving ourselves what we are missing in our lives.

Sadness is a sign of something we want to change, of an opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves on a deeper level.  It can be our mind’s way of showing us some truth we have hidden from ourselves unconsciously or a truth we have been too afraid to face because it feels scary.

For instance, if we feel sad because we are lonely, we can learn to connect more with others and expand our social life.

If we are sad in our relationship, we can understand that something is not working, and we then know that we need to start couples therapy or break up.

Sadness can guide us toward the direction we need to go to create a more meaningful, connected, fulfilling life

And at times when we feel the most sadness, when we are grieving a loss, sadness reminds us that we are human, and that we need comfort, support, and space to mourn. And to feel grief we must have experienced love.

Feeling Your Sadness

If you have been avoiding your sadness, it can seem almost impossible to feel it. But there are ways you can ease into the process. It is difficult to face sadness alone, and it multiplies in isolation so you can turn to a friend or a therapist.  Just speaking about our sadness out loud to someone who cares about us and wants to listen is healing in itself.

You can also put on music that makes you feel emotional, lighting a candle and being present with whatever feelings arise. Reflect on what might be causing your feelings. 

When easing into sadness, focus on self-compassion and self-care first and foremost. This means inviting sadness in as a friend who has some valuable wisdom to share. You can also explore where your sadness is stemming from, but it is OK if it is unclear at first.

You also might journal; listen to a guided meditation; or connect to nature by taking a walk or hiking a trail. Find out what works best for you—which might not be journaling or meditating or walking.

Remind yourself that sadness is not permanent. Feelings come and go.

And remind yourself that sadness is not pointless. When you sit with your sadness, you realise it has a lot to tell you, like a good friend whispering in your ear. It can tell you about your true needs and longings, remind you of loved ones you will never stop loving or missing, and quietly guiding you into making important decisions.

(Image courtesy of Pete Linworth, TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay)