By Maria Rodale
Depression gets a lot of press and attention these days. But sadness is a different thing. Sadness is the feeling that comes from an unhappy event. Now, if you don’t deal with it, sadness can become chronic and lead to depression. This is why you might want to learn to deal with it when it comes. And it will come.
Just the other day, for example, I was very, very sad. Something happened in my life, which none of you need to know about or worry about because I am fine. Everything is fine, but something did occur which made me utterly and incredibly sad. And as I came out of it a little bit, I thought of this blog.
I made this list as much for me as for you…
1. Cry. Cry like you mean it. Oh, did I ever cry. I cried loud enough that I’m sure a neighbor or two wondered what was happening. As I cried, I thought about how I am like all three of my daughters bundled up into one. I flung myself on my bed and cried (just like my littlest). I checked my phone and cried (just like my teenager). I swore I had nothing to wear and would never leave the house again and cried (just like my oldest). And then my personal favorite: I cried in the shower. It’s not that crying feels good–in fact, it usually gives me a headache–it’s that it’s NECESSARY.
2. Write bad poetry. Or good poetry, if you can. The main thing is to write it out. Dealing with sadness is a little bit like detoxing–if you hold it in, it will fester and turn into something worse like sickness or depression. Get it out. Put words to it. Or pictures. Or music…
3. Listen to music. Sad music. Let yourself feel it. Look into the darkness and see that it’s not as scary as you thought. It’s just…sad. And sadness is a universal inspiration for great music.
4. Get dressed. I’m serious. In my darkest moment, I panicked and thought I had absolutely nothing to wear (I was traveling, so I had limited choices). But the act of actually putting work clothes on was a little like getting suited up for a battle I knew I had to face.
5. Go outside. Yes, despite your utter, brutal sadness, the world is going on as if nothing happened. As if all is well. And yes, soon you will be one of those people walking around like everything is fine. Because everything will be fine.
6. Work. It’s hard to cry when you are having a meeting about something completely not related to your current sadness.
7. Don’t be surprised if no one notices that you seem sad. Yes, your whole world has just fallen apart, but don’t expect anyone to say anything about it. Which is probably better anyway, since if they do you might just burst into tears, and that could be awkward.
8. Walk, run, or ride. The rhythmic physical exertion is good for you–natural endorphins will help you feel a bit better. Plus, sweat is a great camouflage for tears. You can cry all you want and people will just think you’re really working hard and in physical pain from your sport.
9. Clean something. One way sadness can lead to depression is if you let things go and suddenly the heaviness of everything drags you into a deep hole. Cleaning can make you feel like your world is a bit shinier and brighter. It’s like a little step stool to help you get out of the hole.
10. Get out in nature. The fresh air, the earth, the animals and birds will be a reminder that everything goes through cycles–even your life and your mood. Healing is a fundamental part of everything, and yes…it will get better.
11. Meditate. Ask the universe to guide you in your sadness–what do you need to learn from the experience? How can you grow from it? How can you expand your perception of what is possible?
12. Talk to someone. Friend, therapist, family member. Talk to someone you can trust who is just going to listen and comfort, not try to judge or fix you.
13. Take it one day at a time. If your sadness is due to a singular event, each day will get slightly better (as long as you follow my 21-step plan). If your sadness is due to a LACK of an event, determine to take action. And each day take one more action toward your own happiness.
14. Dream Baby Dream. Just when I was starting to feel better on my way to work the first day of my sadness, “Dream Baby Dream” by Bruce Springsteen came on and I cried even harder, even though Bruce himself was telling me to “Come on darling and dry your eyes” because “I just wanna see you smile.” But the message of this song is a perfect encouragement to start the process of healing and moving on and imagining a future when all this sadness you’re feeling at this moment will just be a distant memory.
15. Remember, it will get better. It will. It will. I promise it will! If we believe it, it will. Right?
16. Don’t forget to eat, but not too much. Interestingly, I realized that sadness makes me not want to eat. But not eating makes me cranky. And so I eat.
17. Comfort yourself physically. Take a hot bath. Get a massage. Take a nap. Wear a favorite sweater.
18. Start to laugh again. Watch a funny movie. Or stupid pet videos on Facebook and YouTube.
19. Give yourself time and permission. Heal on your own schedule, no one else’s. There is no right or wrong. I remember after my father died, people wondered why I was still sad a month later. They had no idea. No idea. It took a few years.
20. Be grateful for the experience. One day you’ll look back on it and understand it all in the arc of your life experience. And isn’t it better to feel something than to feel nothing at all? Understanding sadness makes the happiness all that much sweeter.
21. Focus on the good and move on. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get on with things. Before you know it, you’ll be happy again. After all, you have so many things in your life to be happy about. Appreciate those things, and suddenly your sadness will feel smaller and your happiness will grow larger.