Being sad is not necessarily bad

B L Razdan
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
“Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.” (Clive Barker)
“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” (Brian Jacques)
Sadness is part of the ups and downs of life. Everyone feels sad sometimes, just like everyone can feel joyful, angry, proud and plenty of other emotions. In other words, everyone has feelings, and those feelings are always changing. Sometimes we feel happy – like when we’re having fun – and sometimes we feel sad – like when we lose a loved one – whatever the feelings, it is real and part of living.
A negative emotion may even help us. Our world focuses on happiness and treats unhappiness as an unnecessary or useless feeling. But we should be aware that without sadness, one would not know what happiness is. They must both exist for either one of them to exist. Positive or negative, meaning bad or good, well that’s for the individual to address. “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” (Jonathan Safran Foer) For people who try and avoid sadness, will experience more of it until they address it. “Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” This passage from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” can serve as an eye-opener.
One may feel sad for many reasons inasmuch as life is full of situations that may make people feel sad: having trouble at home (for example, family fights or domestic violence); having trouble at school or work, or feeling pressure there; moving home; losing a loved one or a friend; being ill, or caring for someone who is ill; experiencing chemical changes in our body (from puberty, drugs or medicines); experiencing changes in our thoughts (for example, developing an unhelpful thinking style such as being self-critical, or learning new information about subjects such as poverty or terrorism). When we face these situations, we may have unhelpful or negative thoughts about our sadness. And those thoughts can make us feel worse. In such situations we should try a different approach: try to acknowledge our sadness and the situation that prompted it. And give ourselves time to deal with any problems and feel better. We may also seek help from friends, relatives and family, and if necessary, even a psychologist, or any other health professional.
Such a course will help ease sadness. Feeling better can involve taking one step or many. It may happen quickly or over a long period of time. Just remember that emotions ebb and flow, and we can move through sadness to a more positive emotion. After having acknowledged that we are feeling sad, we should make efforts to manage the sadness – mere acknowledging may not be enough – after all, it will pass over time. Sometimes we might want to actively do something to help manage our sadness. These tips may prove very useful in the process:
” Having confidence that things will improve. We need to trust that our sad feelings will lessen with time and effort.
” Being honest with ourselves and the people around us. Talk to someone whom you trust.
” Doing things that one enjoys and that are good for him. Find ways to make our life more pleasurable: listen to music, go for a walk, read a book, call a friend.
” Tackling one problem at a time. It doesn’t matter if we start with the biggest or smallest problem, just make a list and begin. If things are out of our control, talk to someone we trust about our options, or try to work on accepting the situation as it is.
” Thinking about whether our sleeping and eating patterns are good for us.
” Helping someone else. Just improving someone else’s life, or being part of a community, can lift our spirits.
” Finding a creative way to express our sadness. Writing our thoughts in a diary, for example, may help us find a new perspective.
” Seek help from a professional (a doctor, psychologist, or other health professional). We may need support, advice or a referral to a specialist.
” If a prescribed medication makes us feel down, let our doctor know. And talk to the doctor before taking any non-prescribed medications or complementary or alternative medicines.
” Keeping ourselves safe. If one feels at risk of hurting oneself, let someone know immediately.
A more permanent solution would be to keep the sagacious advice of Bhagwad Gita in mind and usher these principles in one’s life. He whose consciousness is not shaken by anxiety under afflictions, nor by attachments to happiness under favorable circumstances; he who is free from worldly loves, fears, and Angers- he is called a Muni of steady discrimination. (BG 2:56) He who is everywhere non-attached, neither joyously excited by encountering good nor disturbed by evil, has an established wisdom. (BG 2:57) The tranquil sage, victorious over the self(ego), is ever fully established in the supreme self(spirit), whether he encounter cold or heat, pleasure or pain, praise or blame. (BG 6:7) That Yogi who is gladly absorbed in truth and self-realization is said to be indissolubly united to spirit. Unchangeable, conqueror of senses, he looks with an equal eye an earth, stone and gold. (BG 6:8) He is a supreme yogi who regards with equal-mindedness all men, patrons, friends, enemies, strangers, mediators, hateful beings, relatives, the virtuous and the un godly. (BG 6:9) Lord Krishna told Arjuna, “O son of Kunti, the non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from the sense perception…learn to tolerate them without being disturbed…The person who is… steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.”
It is important to understand that sadness is different from depression. Whereas sadness is part of life’s regular ups and downs, but it is not constant; it is a common reaction to an upset or setback, and is usually not a cause for worry; it is interrupted by times of laughter and contentment; it is an emotion that can involve negative thoughts but does not usually involve suicidal thoughts. Depression, on the other hand, is a longer term feeling (more than two weeks) of severe sadness or or loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and other symptoms. These symptoms may include sleeplessness, low energy, concentration problems, pessimism, loss of hope, suicidal thoughts and appetite issues; has complicated causes, which may involve genetic or biological components; it can lead to significant weight change or sleep disruption; it is mentally painful and can be life altering; Feeling sad can prompt you to make choices that improve one’s life.
Merely feeling sad does not mean we have depression. But if our mood starts to interrupt our life and how we function, then we may have become depressed. The key differences between sadness and clinical depression relate to the cause for the change in mood and how long one may have felt that way, and other symptoms that might be present. If the mood relates to a recent event, such as a relationship breakup, then one may well be feeling sadness. But if that breakup was months ago, or one can see no clear reason for one’s change in mood, he could be depressed, and it might be helpful for him to consult a medical practitioner or a psychologist. “There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” (Barbara Kingsolver)