If you log onto social media, chances are you’ll probably see lots of pictures of people being happy. You’ll see pictures of pretty places and pictures of quotes that are meant to be motivational. If you look through someone’s feed, you will likely only see happy faces on the people whose photos are posted.
I don’t want to talk about how social media isn’t real. Instead, I want to talk about being sad.
You rarely, if ever, see people sad online. I’m not talking about that one friend who posts a semi-ambiguous caption about not being valued because they’re looking for attention and you wonder who pissed them off this time. I’m also not talking about depression or the kind of sadness that is caused by a life-altering event.
I’m talking about the kind of sadness you feel after you realize you’re still harboring expectations for the people you love most and you’ve been let down. That feeling where your face falls and you sigh because your mom brought up that thing she said she wouldn’t bring up again and you realize she’s never going to change.
You’re bummed enough that you change your mind about what you’re going to do with the rest of the day, but you know you’ll be over in a few hours or by tomorrow morning. The kind of sadness we typically experience in regular life. The kind nobody really talks about.
You probably feel like it’s not bad enough to tell someone else about it, and depending on how much media you’re ingesting, you might even feel bad for feeling sad, which only serves to, you guessed it, make you feel sadder.
Here are some truths about being sad. Things for you to keep in mind the next time you find yourself there.
1. Being sad is normal.
So, let’s get that out of the way first. That feeling is perfectly normal and everyone goes through it. Sadness is a normal, healthy part of life. There is absolutely nothing unique about being sad. Despite the fact that everyone says they’re some variation of good when you ask them how they’re doing, I promise, everyone is not always good. It just so happens that sadness is not as attractive as smiling and most people are unwilling to be vulnerable so openly. So people usually go through sadness without letting anyone else know.
2. Sadness ≠ Failure
You are not doing something wrong because you feel sad sometimes. There is nothing wrong with you or with your life because you get down. It happens. This belief is typically perpetuated because it’s not something that most people discuss out in the open. But sadness does not mean you are weak. It does not mean you are missing something in your life. It does not mean you have made too many mistakes. It’s a feeling, not a destination.
3. It gives you perspective.
Being sad gives you a chance to appreciate the good things in your life. It sets a marker on your range of emotional experiences for you to refer to later. It helps you to better understand when things are or aren’t a big deal. It helps you realize how that range has grown and shifted throughout the years, how you’ve grown. And it gives you an opportunity to be grateful for the times where more than just in the “okay” range.
So what do you do when you’re sad?
The answer is going to be different for everyone. Only you can know what makes you feel good and with time, learn what works for you.
Here’s what works for me.
Listen to music. Stand up and dance around.
Watch a funny episode of your favorite show. For me, it’s Doctor Who (2005) Series 5, Episode 11.
Go for a walk and breathe in the fresh air.
Pick up a cat and hug it. (This works with a willing human being, too.)
Allow yourself the space to feel sad. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Accept whatever made you sad, accept your reaction, accept the process.
Doing these things when you’re sad is not simply about not feeling sad anymore. These are not distractions. These are reminders that your sadness is temporary and that you’re still okay. They are a practice in regulating your emotions and in taking care of yourself.
And sure, it doesn’t hurt that you might also start to feel better along the way.