When I first moved away from home and lived overseas by myself for a year when I was 18, it was the days of mix tapes (yes, I know – the dark ages!). I guess these were our version of a playlist, but we couldn’t adjust them without frantic use of the fast forward or rewind buttons… Anyway, I prepared for that year by making two mix tapes specifically to help manage my emotions. The first one was called “happy songs” and the second, “sad songs”. Hmm, not such a master of creative naming!
My parents, siblings and boyfriend of the time all thought I was crazy to create a sad songs tape.
But you know, by listening to those sad songs when I was homesick, missing friends and family or just feeling down about the endless grey skies and rain (England in winter is a shock after an Aussie summer), I would allow myself to be sad, cry a little, and then start to feel better.
You see, I did know something about myself and how to feel better.
When you are feeling sad, embrace it, don’t fight it.
And interestingly, when you take that approach, the sadness lifts after a little while and you feel better.
Interestingly, fifteen years later it took a tragedy to remind me of this lesson.
When we lost our second son, the sadness and grief was all-encompassing; a physical pain in my heart and corresponding ache in my empty arms. I had no choice but to embrace sadness as I was not capable of doing anything else.
But it wasn't long before I started to try and jolly myself along and not let myself be sad. I would deny the sad feelings, and try to soldier on. That was not helpful.
Through experience I have found that when I resist and fight my emotions, they don’t go away. The emotions loiter and reassert themselves, often with greater ferocity than if I had just let them be expressed when they first appeared. So I end up feeling worse for longer.
It is at those times when I need to give myself permission to accept the sadness, and just be with it.
Our emotions are temporary states, and once we have expressed and exhausted that emotion, our bodies naturally move back to a more neutral state. Another way of saying this is;
Express the sadness, exhaust it and then you will start to feel better.
It might be that today you just feel 'blah' and bit sad for no apparent reason. It happens to all of us! Sometimes we just have those days, where we can't point the finger at why, but we are just a little fragile and teary. We feel sad.
Or you may have been through an upsetting experience, such as the loss of someone you love, divorce, job loss or a bad break-up, and you are sad and grieving. It’s okay to embrace the sadness.
Do not let anyone, including yourself, tell you to ‘hurry up’ with your sadness and grief, to ‘move on’ or ‘get over it’. Grief and sadness are personal. You might need a year, a month, a week or a day to feel sad; it's personal and therefore, completely okay to take your time.
My suggestion is, when you are feeling sad, do something that allows you to BE SAD. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to put on some music that doesn’t cheer you up, or do something that may make you feel even more sad, try it for a little bit. By doing this, you are giving yourself permission to express the emotion. It’s not an instant fix, but it does help slowly and gradually.
Sad is normal. Sad is healthy. Sad is necessary to heal. We must experience sadness in order to appreciate the feeling of happiness.
It is tough to acknowledge the emotion and feelings that come up when they are not how we want to feel. But, if sad is the way you are feeling today then perhaps try going with it, exhaust it and see if you feel better sooner.
If you feel like you are experiencing too many sad days and would prefer to have more joyful days, consider downloading my free gift "6 days to Change your Life" which will help you to have more days filled with Joy, Hope and Love. Simply subscribe to the newsletter and the gift will be sent to you.