How to let go of sadness, mindfully

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Sadness is not good for productivity. It makes you sluggish, distracted and unmotivated. Wouldn’t it be great if there were on ‘Off’ button you could press so you could just get rid of it? Well, you can’t! In fact, trying to get rid of it is counter-productive. It’s like pushing a football underwater: it’ll just come back again with more force.

I’ve recently been working with several clients on how they relate to sadness, and I’ve noticed some common beliefs between all of them.

In this blog, I’ll share some tips for how to let go of sadness more quickly, so that you can move on faster and suffer less.

What is sadness?

According to Wikipedia: ‘Sadness is an emotional pain associated with, or characterised by, feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow. An individual experiencing sadness may become quiet or lethargic, and withdraw themselves from others. An example of severe sadness is depression, a mood which can be brought on by major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder. Crying can be an indication of sadness.’

I feel sad when I stop and consider the situation of a homeless person. I felt sad yesterday, when I saw that my dog was bleeding from his mouth. I felt sad when I read about the families killed in the fires outside Athens. Every day, the news contains items that would make us feel deeply sad if we let them touch us.

It’s an essential, fundamental human emotion that we all experience.

Why don’t we like it?

Some people are okay with feeling sad and having a good cry. A lot of people aren’t. Talking it through with my clients, their attitudes towards it were:

  • I want to get rid of it;
  • It’s weak to feel sad;
  • I want to ‘get on with it’ and not ‘wallow’ in it;
  • I fear it might be overwhelming and I’ll never stop feeling sad.

I think it’s partly a British thing, partly a ‘toxic masculinity’ thing, and partly a corporate culture thing. Sadness is not acceptable, which is ridiculous, because being sad isn’t bad: it shows far more courage to feel and express sadness than to suppress or hide it.

If you want to be happy, you have to be willing to feel sad as well. They’re two sides of the same coin.

How do we let go of it?

Counter-intuitively, the key to letting go of sadness is to welcome it. You have to let it flow through you; wash over you. Breathe with it… and let the waterworks open.

But if you do that as a kind of bargain — ‘I’ll let you be felt as long as you go away’ — it won’t work! You have to actually be willing to be with it as long as needs be.

It might also be helpful to remind yourself that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just part of the human experience.

This poem says it much better than I can:

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin A Rumi

If you’d like some help letting go of sadness, get in touch.

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