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Everyone gets sad sometimes — but it can be hard to know what to do with this emotion.
Sadness is an uncomfortable feeling. Many people might find it difficult to express their sadness in words or actions, especially if they weren’t taught how as children.
When sad feelings arise it’s tempting to try and escape them rather than sit with them. But sadness can be a valuable emotion — it can help you process difficult situations, grieve losses, and connect with others.
Sadness is a part of life, but you don’t have to keep it bottled up. When you learn to express it in a way that feels comfortable for you, it can have many benefits.
Everyone is different and people may express sadness in different ways. It can help to try a few forms of expression to find what works for you.
“Sadness is an emotional experience that impacts both the body and the mind,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Fredrick, a licensed psychotherapist based in Gilbert and Phoenix, Arizona.
“Sadness can be the response to an event, such as a disappointment, loss, or hurtful event,” says Fredrick. “[It] can last for a brief time or be prolonged, depending on the situation.”
Expressing emotions helps you feel them. That’s why finding ways to express yourself can be helpful. By expressing how you’re feeling, you can acknowledge and better cope with your emotions.
In contrast, bottling up your feelings can contribute to relationship troubles or mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.
Fredrick shares a few healthy ways you can express and cope with sadness when you’re feeling down.
Talking with another person about how you’re feeling is an effective way to let out emotions. Fredrick recommends sharing your feelings with safe and supportive people.
“It is healthy to talk about things that are bothering us and leading to feelings of sadness. However, it is crucial to pick validating and supportive people to share with in order for this approach to be effective,” she adds.
That means you might want to avoid unloading on people who tend to minimize your feelings or monopolize the conversation. Note, too, that seeking support excessively can cause strain on some relationships, so it may be best to have a few other methods for expressing your feelings, too.
Whether in a journal or online blog, expressing your feelings in written form can help you work through them, says Fredrick.
“I encourage my clients to create a window of time each day that they can journal these thoughts, but I also encourage them to put a limit on the amount of time they are spending in this activity so as not to spiral deeper into the sadness,” she says.
There are various mental health benefits of journaling, such as relieving anxiety and helping you process difficult situations.
Another healthy way to express your emotions, suggests Fredrick, is to use creative endeavors like painting, music, or dancing to get out how you’re feeling. “These methods of expression can be very powerful for releasing sadness while also creating something beautiful in the process.”
Abstract, creative ways of processing sadness can be especially helpful for people who have trouble articulating their feelings out loud or find it tough to open up to others.
“The most important thing to keep in mind if using an approach like this is to ensure the end results don’t leave you feeling worse or in a deeper despair. If that is the case, this approach is likely not helpful, but rather keeping you stuck in this emotion,” says Fredrick.
You can improve your ability to cope with challenging emotions by incorporating stress reduction activities into your routine, explains Fredrick.
Stress reduction methods might include:
- improving quality of sleep using healthy sleep practices
- meditation and mindfulness exercises
- deep breathing exercises
Practicing acceptance — such as acknowlegding that you’re in a difficult situation rather than fighting against it — can help you allow your feelings to come and go.
These strategies can’t eliminate difficult feelings like sadness, but they can help prime your mind and body for handling them when they come on.
It’s more than okay to feel sad sometimes.
Everyone experiences sadness at some point in life, whether it’s because of something minor like the ending of a movie or something more significant like the loss of a loved one. Expressing that sadness is an important part of coping.
Keeping your feelings inside can be harmful, but there are healthy ways to let them out, from engaging in creative outlets to sharing them with others.
But when sadness becomes all-consuming, it may be time to seek help.
How can you tell if your experience is more than sadness? If these feelings are impacting your day-to-day life and making it challenging to get through each day, it might be a good idea to talk with a mental health professional about how you’re feeling.
You can read about the difference between sadness and depression here.
Looking for more information about expressing and managing your feelings, or need help getting into the right mindset for healthy emotional expression? Fredrick shares a few helpful resources:
- “DBT Workbook for Adults” by Barrett Huang
- The Science of Happiness Podcast
- meditation apps like Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer meditation apps