Experiencing negative emotions can be uncomfortable, and we therefore have a tendency to push them away. Yesterday I commented on compassion, and part of self-compassion is allowing yourself to experience all emotion – even those negative and uncomfortable emotions. Allow yourself to be sad, acknowledge your feelings were hurt or the grief you are experiencing, offer yourself some compassion, and then find a way to move forward with that emotion. Not to allow that emotion to take over, but to allow it to be present, acknowledge it, and let it fall away with time. By not acknowledging it, the falling away part will not happen, and it will bubble under the surface of your everyday life and actions. Over time deep sadness, uncontrollable anger, or even clinical depression can set in – and whether mild or severe, those emotions impact your ability to live your life the way you would like (and impact you reaching your goals).
Emotion is an unavoidable part of life. We will all experience sadness at times, anxiety, worry, happiness, contentment, boredom, anger, joy, etc. To be able to slow down and find the time to experience these emotions helps enhance our overall functioning. To constantly push down or avoid emotions, we never work through them, and they will continue to bubble up and get in the way of our lives here and there. As I have said before, even positive coping mechanisms can get in the way of truly dealing with emotion, understanding ourselves, and determining what type of life we want to live.
In an article titled “A Time to Be Sad,” in the February 2017 issue of Mindful magazine, written by Steven Hickman, he provides a more in-depth look at sadness, and how to allow yourself to experience this emotion in order to enhance your overall functioning. He talks about the downward spiral that can occur when we are unable to put our sadness into perspective…
“I don’t like this feeling” becomes “I don’t want this feeling” becomes “I shouldn’t have this feeling” becomes “There is something wrong with me because I have this feeling” becomes “I’m bad.” You can see how this can lead to a distorted sense of shame, and the personal belief that “I am uniquely bad and flawed and therefore unlovable.”
Such negativity does a dramatic job at getting in the way of believing you can accomplish any goal or live in terms of your true value/belief system. In truth, the healthiest way we can live is to remind ourselves emotion is temporary. You have likely felt sad before and eventually felt happy or content again. In some ways sadness is a positive emotion in that during times of feeling more down, we may be more rational and realistic about evaluating our lives and any changes we would like to make, and we get the experience of recognizing how good it feels to be happy again!
Tip from Steven Hickman: Carve out some sad time…
- Allow yourself a “sad” day to feel all of your emotions. Cancel plans, take a “mental health day” from work, listen to music or watch movies that move you, look through old photos, curl up on the couch, or go for a quiet walk in the park.
- As Hickman says: at the end, acknowledge that you’ve taken the time you needed, and remember tomorrow marks a fresh start.
Remember: emotion will always be there, and it cannot always be predicted. Working to understand yourself and how you tend to react to emotion will allow you the clarity to work through emotions, remind yourself they are temporary, and approach such situations with kindness toward self. And, it will allow you to stay on track with your wellness goals despite what comes your way!
Finally, if your sadness seems unending, is disrupting your overall functioning, and changing who you are or would like to be, seek professional help through a medical provider or therapist. Clinical depression is different than general sadness. Also, grief is a special type of sadness, and allowing yourself to feel this emotion and move through it is necessary, but can be more complicated and intense. When struggling with grief, it can be a good time to seek professional help.