We’re often taught to think of sadness as a negative emotion – one to avoid.
Our first instinct is to fight sadness. We try to rationalize it, bury it or turn it into an emotion that is easier to process (such as anger).
This isn’t the best way to cope. Feelings of sadness are essential. In his 1917 paper Mourning and Melancholia, Sigmund Freud argued that sadness (which he referred to as mourning) was a “healthy and normal process that is necessary for the recovery of the loss .”
But still, it’s only natural that we attempt to supressess the sadness.
Sadness is energy and energy has to go somewhere. When we suppress that energy, our sadness sits in our bodies and can rot from within. When we suppress any emotion, our bodies starts to deteriorate.
In order to heal sadness we have to let ourselves feel our sadness, we have to be willing to risk vulnerability. This can be difficult, because we are conditioned to equate vulnerability with getting hurt. It goes against our very nature to put ourselves in danger.
But we have to risk the vulnerability if we are to express our emotions.
Expression will start us down a road that can lead to wonderful feelings.
The Room Scenario
A great way to understand the power of expression is the “Room Scenario.”
Let’s take a couple that are angry at each other, let’s call them Dan and Cathy for arguments sake. We’re going to lock them in a room and force them to deal with their emotions.
First, the anger between Dan and Cathy would be palpable. We’d be able to cut the tension with the knife. Dan chooses to speak first, but soon they are yelling at each other, blaming each other and talking about how much they resent each other. This isn’t a fun room to be in.
After this initial, unpleasant phase, Cathy comes down to the level of hurt and disappointment. She opens up about the events that led to this anger, how much Dan’s actions hurt her and how disappointed she is. Soon, Cathy beings to express her fears, insecurities and the root of her anger.
Once Cathy has fully expressed her feelings, Dan starts to understand how his actions hurt Cathy and starts to express regret.
“I understand how you feel. I’m sorry you feel this way, I understand that I can be difficult and my actions have caused you pain.” Dan tells Cathy.
This progression has been brought about by the initial expression. If we didn’t lock Dan and Cathy in a room and force them to express themselves, they would still be at square one.
Instead of trying to avoid an initial, unpleasant confrontation and letting the anger build inside of them, Dan and Cathy have expressed their feelings and are now in a better place.
Learn to Express Your Sadness
Now, we just explained this scenario in the context of two people locked in a room but in truth the same thing happens when we lock ourselves in a room and look at our own emotions. If we don’t express your sadness, we won’t be able to follow the same path Dan and Cathy did. We’d all just be stuck in neutral.
The difference between Dan and Cathy and the Room Example is that our sadness in internal. It doesn’t stem from conflict with someone else, there is no one to reckon with but ourselves. Luckily, there are some good exercises we can undertake to express our sadness to ourselves. Here are a few you can try:
The best way to start expressing your sadness is to let it out in the most primal way possible: cry, yell, wail, sob, moan – whatever you have to do. The release is an important first step to acknowledge the feelings you’re experiencing.
Crying also has numerous health benefits, among them: it relieves stress, lowers blood pressure and helps to remove toxins from the body.
If you haven’t let your emotions out yet, we encourage you to do so before trying the other expression strategies on our list.
2. Listen to Sad Music
Listening to other expressions of sadness can help you grow more comfortable with your own expression. It’s also a good solution if you are having trouble vocalizing (step 1) your feelings.
YouTube is full of sad music mixes, you can find any genre of music to help you express your feelings. Our recommendation is a bit cliche, but it touches on everything we’ve discussed so far:
Journaling can help us process sadness. Writing is a great way to express our emotions, especially to ourselves.
Allow yourself to feel your sadness, let it take over your mind and body and write about how that feels. Identify the source of your sadness and write about it. Does your sadness stem from a particular person or event? A loss? An overreaction? Write about anything that triggers your sadness.
You don’t even have to read it back to yourself, just the act of putting your feelings on paper can help you cope with your sadness.
4. Be Artistic
Maybe you aren’t a writer, that’s fine. Draw, paint, sculpt and even color your feelings. Art is a terrific outlet to express your sadness, you may even be able to create something you never thought possible.
One activity we really enjoy: coloring mandalas. Coloring mandalas allows the brain to enter a peaceful state and to be focused on filling in the geometrical shapes instead of thinking about their worries. The predetermined, complex design of a mandala can provide similar benefits to therapy and meditation.
5. Talk To Someone
The simple act of talking to someone can be quite helpful. Sometimes, just a brief chat can help you organize your thoughts and come to conclusions about the causes of your sadness.
If you’re looking for a listener, we recommend using our Free Online Therapy chat room. We created Free Online Therapy to provide a safe, anonymous chat room to anyone who is struggling. The room will connect you with a volunteer with one simple goal: to listen to you. We’ve facilitated over 1,000 conversations and are committed to making a difference and providing you with a safe chat room experience.
Good luck with your expressions. If you have any other exercise ideas or questions about how to get started with the ones we listed above, let us know 👇.