“Active natures are rarely melancholy. Activity and sadness are incompatible.” – Christian Bovee

Sometimes, you’re just sad. Whether it’s the holiday season, your birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, you can inexplicably feel sadness. It may be that the occasion itself reminds you of a loss, especially if the loss was recent, painful or protracted. You might be sad because you know you didn’t behave with the best of intentions. You could also be sad because you did nothing when you knew you should have done something.

Perhaps you are sad because you tend to sit at home and mope about what’s wrong in your life. It could also be that you have a physical condition that needs attention or diagnosis by a medical professional and you’ve been putting off getting a checkup, worried that there might be something seriously wrong. These can result in sadness. They also have one thing else in common: inactivity.

The best prescription to get over sadness — not clinical depression, mind you, which requires professional help, but general sadness of a temporary nature — is to get busy. That’s right. Get out and do something. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Be with people At the top of the list is the advice to be around others. Sitting at home will do nothing to help erase sadness. If anything, it will exacerbate the emotion and prolong its presence. While going out to be with others may be the last thing you want to do, it’s the best thing you can do to avoid sadness or get past it.
  2. Find a hobby or join a club Maybe you aren’t a joiner in the strict sense. You like to think of yourself as independent. That’s fine. It doesn’t preclude you from becoming a member — even a temporary one — of a club. If you have an interest in reading, a book club or discussion group is a natural. There are groups that meet in a physical location and those that convene online. If you like a certain genre and there’s no club or group available, consider starting your own group. There’s nothing like active discussion on a topic you’re passionate about to keep sadness at bay.In a similar vein, if you’ve always had an interest in model trains or woodworking or painting with watercolors, there’s likely a group of people who meet regularly to engage in the hobby. Exchanging ideas and tips, showcasing efforts, and participating in congenial conversation is always a good recipe for countering sadness.
  3. Participate in neighborhood activities While the holidays are a perfect example of times when neighborhood activities tend to be offered, a look at the local newspaper or checking websites for community organizations should reveal activities open to the public. If you know a neighbor who’s active in such organizations or always seems to know where there’s an event happening, ask him or her what’s on the calendar and if you can attend together. Granted, some activities might not be your first choice, like quilting or tree-planting, but keeping an open mind and going along to get out and mingle with people could very well overcome your initial objections. Besides, you don’t have to keep going if you find you don’t like it. On the other hand, you might meet some rather interesting people in the process, regardless whether you fancy yourself a quilting regular or not.
  4. Travel It’s long been recommended to travel to broaden your horizons, see something new, meet new people, get out of your routine. Travel can also lift temporary sadness or funk for several reasons. It switches your routine and causes you to make plans, pay attention, be on the lookout for landmarks, historical sights, places of interest, restaurants, rest stops, gas stations and shops. There’s an element of anticipation, discovery, and the excitement of going where you’ve never been or revisiting a favorite spot. If you don’t have several days, go away for the weekend or a day trip. Travel works well to overcome sadness and create positive memories.
  5. Go to school Perhaps getting a degree or applying to college is neither applicable or desirable. The concept here is to broaden your horizons, learn a new skill, add to your knowledge, and bring you in contact with others. It could be enrolling in a community workshop or taking an online course, asking a friend to teach you something he or she is proficient at, gathering books and literature to help with a home improvement project. The “what” matters less than the pursuit of learning. When you actively pursue something that interests or intrigues you, the spark of excitement will tend to dampen feelings of sadness.
  6. Adopt an attitude of learning something new every day This means that you must expose yourself to learning opportunities — of which there are many. Look in the newspaper or go online to find current events. Take in a movie with a friend. Help your neighbor or a friend. Think of the opportunities you have from the time you get up until you go to bed as one constant stream of learning venues. Even if you do something daily, try to incorporate some new twist into it. For example, if driving to work is boring, switch the route. If you normally eat lunch sitting at your desk alone, ask a co-worker to join you outside in the courtyard while you have lunch, or go for a walk together after (or instead of) eating.

Being busy will not remove all traces of sadness immediately, but it is an excellent start. When you are involved in activity, focused on what you’re doing, you’re not giving in to moroseness. You’re doing something positive and proactive to help lift your spirits and replenish the feeling of joy at being alive.

If you start to feel sad, put some activity into your schedule. Start now. You’ll begin to feel better in no time at all.