Are you feeling sad about the upcoming summer holidays because they’re going to look different to what you thought they might be? Perhaps you’re unable to meet up with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while due to travel restrictions, or perhaps this time of year is just a sad time for you because it reminds you of all the things you don’t have and wish you had.
Sometimes your sad feelings can catch up with you and stay in what feels like a ever-ending circle, it doesn’t have to be that way for you. You can unwind sadness and start growing your happiness and wellbeing. Here are 12 ways you can productively deal with your sad feelings.
Rumination happens when you get stuck in your head, thinking about all the negative stuff that has gone wrong or could go wrong. Rumination contributes to so many unnecessary sad feelings and it is a key feature of depression. Stopping rumination in its tracks is an important first step to getting through sadness.
To stop the rumination, start to engage your body in some activity that is intense enough that you can't think for a few minutes. For example, you could do sprints or take an ice-cold shower. This shock can stop your brain from cycling and force it to focus on the present moment.
If something has happened to you to make you sad, you could become sadness-prone—only thinking about the worst possible things that could happen. This is a natural response which helps you to remember the situation, and think through the possible bad outcomes, so you can better prepare for next time. Unfortunately, this strategy only makes you feel worse in the long run. Your sadness can snowball into feeling all sorts of other negative emotions too.
To interrupt the overwhelming snowball of emotions pattern, imagine a brighter future, even if it’s only in an exercise to help your brain break through sad feelings. If you use this exercise more than once, you may notice your imagination refining your brighter future, allowing you to build hope in your future happiness, and you may even just start to believe it’s possible!
Mindfulness involves self-reflection to gain awareness and acceptance of thoughts and emotions in the moment. Mindfulness can undo negative thinking styles that generate excess sadness by helping you recognise the way you’re feeling is a phase, it’s not forever. A rainbow always follows a storm.
To practice this skill, pause, pay attention to your negative emotions and approach them with curiosity, with an openness to understand what they’re trying to communicate.
Reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that you can use to reframe a sad situation in a more positive (or less negative) way. Reappraisal can be challenging the first couple of times you try it, especially if you struggle to see the silver linings in your day-to-day activities.
Luckily, you can get better at reappraisal. It gets easier with practice. Practice thinking about what’s good in the situation because each situation has a gift for you. So, challenge yourself and ask, ‘What am I grateful for in this situation?’, ‘how could it have gone worse?’, or 'what positives can I take away from this?’ By using reappraisal, you can turn your sad feelings into gratitude.
There are so many strategies and approaches you can use to understand, live with, and overcome your sadness with. Whatever your preference, i.e. science-based, faith based or philosophically based, search out books, groups, trainings or a professional who can help you to understand your sadness and learn strategies on how to manage and overcome your sadness.
So, get curious and explore what solutions are on offer for you. You may even decide to take an online program to boost happiness and learn the skills you need to decrease your sad feelings.
Low serotonin is linked to sadness and depression. So how might you increase serotonin?
One quick way is to eat carbohydrates. Yes, it turns out that the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you eat carbs is in part due to the serotonin boost you get from them. Another way to boost serotonin naturally is to do aerobic exercise, like dancing, running or a workout.
You may be surprised to discover that high sugar intake is linked to sadness and higher levels of depression. You may have already known that sugar is bad for your physical health, and what’s more, it turns out to be bad for your mental health too! So, if you can reduce your sugar intake if you're struggling with sad feelings.
Feeling sad sucks. But allowing yourself to obsess about it will only make it worse. If you focus too much on your lack of happiness and worry about being stuck in sadness, you just make it worse. So, aim to focus on actions you can take and things you can do to feel better, rather than focusing specifically on your sad feelings.
Positive emotions broaden our thought processes and build on themselves, holding out a lifeline to us when we're stuck in sadness. That’s why doing things to create more positive emotions is so important for you in reducing your sadness.
There are so many ways to create positive emotions. Often this is easier than decreasing the negative emotions directly. For example, you can improve your ability to think positively or practice gratitude. You can also do things you enjoy, like spending time with friends, going outside, or reading. If you’re struggling to think of activities you enjoy, reflect back to your teenage years and what you liked doing then. They hold clues to what you would enjoy doing now. Make some time and start doing some of these things.
We’re on our phones 24x7. Spending too much time on our phones or the internet is associated with higher levels of sadness and loneliness.
If you consider your phone to be your best friend, then you may want to consider cutting down and engaging more with real life. If that sounds hard to do, ask yourself what you’re avoiding by being on your smartphone so much. Start to consider the ways you can use it to increase happiness instead of sadness.
Challenging self-critical thoughts and being self-compassionate can help reduce negative emotions like sadness. If you catch your inner voice being critical, challenge it and remind it of your good qualities and strengths. No joy ever came from being hard on yourself with highly critical, unrelenting demands.
There are many actions you can take to beat sadness, making a "happiness plan" can be helpful. For example, you could do one new sadness-busting strategy each day. Whatever works for you to ensure you'll do the things that make you feel better is what matters most.
Garnefski, N., et al., Cognitive coping strategies and symptoms of depression and anxiety: a comparison between adolescents and adults. Journal of Adolescence, 2002. 25(6): p. 603-611.
Knüppel, A., et al., Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports, 2017. 7(1): p. 1-10.
Lopresti, A.L., S.D. Hood, and P.D. Drummond, A review of lifestyle factors that contribute to important pathways associated with major depression: diet, sleep and exercise. Journal of affective disorders, 2013. 148(1): p. 12-27.
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