“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
In my last post, “Coping Skills to Release Sadness – Part One,” we began to explore various ways of actively releasing the emotion of sadness when it begins to interfere with living a meaningful life. As with all emotions, sadness is a temporary state of being that we all experience in some form at various points in life. While we may differ in the degree, intensity, or context within which sadness impacts our lives, we all retain the ability to utilize the emotion experience – however uncomfortable it may be – in either effective or ineffective ways.
Seeing as there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” emotion, it is important to recognize that what matters is how that emotion is identified, managed, and expressed. No matter how well you may have handled unpleasant, neutral, or positive emotional experiences in the past (or in the present), there is great freedom in the realization that each passing moment provides you with an abundance of opportunities to begin to strengthen your level of emotional intelligence. The first step of this journey involves a strong inner desire to cultivate a healthy relationship with your emotions.
Once you are genuinely tired of managing emotions in ways that only serve to hold you back or keep you stuck in self-defeating patterns, consider your proverbial “pilot light” to be lit. The degree to which you authentically want to manage an emotion such as sadness with greater effectiveness plays a crucial role in moving towards a positive outcome. Sometimes sadness becomes so overwhelming, prolonged, or paralyzing that it is difficult to imagine life feeling much different. Remember that it is possible to bring about lasting change.
Coping Skills to Release Sadness
Try reading through the remaining coping skills for releasing sadness and notice any particular strategies that you feel would be beneficial in your own life. While the emotion of sadness is common to the human experience, many of us differ in the coping skills that we find most helpful and useful to move through sadness.
(6) Give Yourself Support
It is common during times of emotional distress to have powerful desires to feel comforted and supported. When it seems as though other people in our lives aren’t there to provide that support or reassurance, sadness can easily intensify and become debilitating. It is precisely during these moments when it is most important to remember that we have all of the resources and gifts that we yearn for from others within ourselves.
Take a moment to pause and give yourself the very compassion, comfort, and support that you need. Try closing your eyes in a quiet place and taking a few slow deep breaths in and out. Place your right hand over your chest and your left hand gently over your stomach. While continuing to breath slowly, quietly say to yourself (or think in your mind), “[Your name,] I am here for you. I care about your suffering.”
(7) Talk with a Loved One
When you make the choice to actively reach out to a partner, friends, or family, there is great potential to release a pent up or stagnant emotion such as sadness. While it is important to remember that ultimately the true release of sadness is something that only you can do, sharing your feelings with others can provide new perspectives or ideas that you may not have seen or considered from within the place of sadness.
Even if it feels as though others don’t or can’t truly understand how you are feeling, allow yourself to feel gratitude for their presence in your life. Remember the importance of authentic emotional connections with others as you begin to actively release the sadness and step back into a rich and vibrant life.
(8) Spend Time Outdoors
The choice to get your body moving, become active, and experience sunlight and fresh air is a way of applying opposite action to the emotion of sadness. The benefits of regular physical activity positively impact not only your physical health, but also your mental and emotional well-being. Depending upon your current physical health, any physical limitations, and your daily schedule, consider what physical activities you can realistically integrate into your day.
For some people, this might mean taking the stairs rather than the elevator at work; for others, it may mean taking a long walk around the neighborhood or going for a hike. The point is to choose an activity in which you are most likely to participate. The best laid plans will end up meaning very little without applying action to them. Notice any positive changes in your mood and releases of sadness as a result of increasing your time outdoors and physical activity.
(9) Take a Hot Shower or Bath
Previous research has shown that warm water eases the pain of loneliness. Even if your personal experience with sadness does not include a palpable sense of loneliness or isolation, a hot bath or shower is a form of self-care that can ease muscular tension and promote well-being. The idea behind engaging in this activity is not to rush through it or bathe mindlessly, but to take your time and be fully present.
Allow yourself to truly enjoy and savor the warmth of the water, notice your muscles relaxing, and make the choice to give yourself the gift of pampering yourself a bit. This experience is one of many opportunities to apply an attitude of mindfulness and fully immerse yourself in the present moment. Visualize the warm water washing away the feelings of sadness as you envision yourself becoming cleansed, renewed, and rejuvenated as a result.
(10) List Ways of Self-Soothing
Reflect back on what healthy activities you have found helpful in the past during times of sadness or distress. Many people find it useful to create a list of self-soothing or distress tolerance strategies on hand for use during times of unpleasant emotions. When you find yourself stuck in a cycle of sadness, one way of actively releasing that sadness and moving through it is to reengage yourself with activities that you find pleasurable, enjoyable, or joyful.
Examples of self-soothing activities that some people find helpful during times of sadness include: watching a funny movie, curling up on the couch in a soft blanket, spending time with a pet, listening to uplifting music, or reading a positive/engaging book. Consider what works for you… use these self-soothing activities as methods of releasing sadness and reminding yourself that it is possible to feel happy/pleasant emotions, thoughts, and sensations.
Perhaps you’ve gotten “used to” feeling sadness. In this case, the devil that you know is often better than the devil you don’t know. Even though you may recognize prolonged or intense sadness as holding you back in some way, at least it is familiar. Many people remain stuck in a wide variety of behavioral, cognitive, and emotional cycles for this profoundly simple fact. You may know what you “don’t” want, but due to feeling, being, or believing yourself to be a particular way for so long, it may seem impossible to imagine what you actually “do” want.
If you find yourself stuck in a repetitive or stagnant emotional state of sadness, consider what life might look like and feel like if you were to actually release that sadness. This doesn’t mean that you approve of the conditions that may have led to that sadness or that you have decided is somehow unjustified or unimportant. It simply means that you have reached a point of realization that your sadness is no longer serving your best interests… it is time for it to be released.
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Tartakovsky, M. (2012). 10 Ways To Cope With Sadness. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2012, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2012/06/10-ways-to-cope-with-sadness/
Featured image: Depressed puma? by Tambako the Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0