Dr. Alaleh "Allie" Selkirk is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Selkirk specializes in the treatment of mental health problems, and helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Selkirk evaluates and treats patients through a variety of methods,... more
Feelings of sadness can be very uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, people tend to try to avoid them as a result. They watch TV, have a drink, or find another distraction to escape the sadness.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t make sadness go away. It might cover it up, but those emotions are still there. And they may pop up when you least expect it.
Ironically, if you’re able to learn to sit with your feelings of sadness, you can actually often get through them more quickly. More importantly, you can learn to tolerate those emotions and gain control over them. In doing so, you gain new insights that can help you in all areas of life.
But how do you sit with your feelings?
Journal Through Feelings of Sadness
Instead of turning away from sadness, turn towards it. Inquire about it. Get to know why it’s in your life.
Writing is one very helpful tool for processing emotions. For example, you can keep a journal where you write about your feelings of sadness. For that matter, you can use it to write about all of your emotions—both positive and negative.
You may find it easy to process emotions through writing. However, if you don’t, you can use a variety of prompts and tools to get started.
- Try writing in poetry or song form.
- Write a letter to your sadness. Then write a response back from your sadness.
- Use similes to understand your sadness. Begin with “my sadness is like …”
- Choose writing prompts. For example, start a paragraph with, “I feel sad when …”
- Describe your sadness in terms of the five senses. “The smell of sadness is …”
Talk to Your Sadness
Some people try journaling through their feelings but find that it doesn’t work for them. If that’s the case, then try talking instead. You can talk aloud into a tape recorder.
One good trick is to imagine that you are talking directly to your sadness. You might even set up a chair, imagine that it’s sitting there, then speak to it. And you can go even further and sit in the chair yourself, then respond from the voice of sadness. This approach can give you a lot of insights.
You might want to ask sadness:
- Why are you here?
- What do you have to teach me?
- Is there something I can do to make you ease up on me?
- Is there a good way for us to co-exist?
- How can I help you?
Feel the Sadness in Your Body
Sadness is an emotion. However, we also feel it in a physical way.
As you sit with feelings of sadness, pay attention to what happens in your body. Scan your body from head to toe, noticing what each part feels like when you are sad.
You might discover:
- Aches or pains
- Areas of tension
- Changes in your breathing patterns
- Spots that feel empty
Pay particular attention to how sadness feels in your head, chest, and stomach.
Check in with Your Emotions Daily
One of the reasons we find it hard to sit with feelings of sadness is because we don’t do it often enough. We avoid uncomfortable feelings. Therefore, they build up. As a result, when they do come, they are overwhelming.
In contrast, take time each day to experience your feelings. You can do an “emotions check in” once or twice.
For example, before you get out of bed in the morning, ask yourself what feelings you have. Simply notice them. Don’t judge them. You don’t need to act on them. You just need to see what’s there.
Do the same thing at the end of the day as you go to bed.
Sometimes, you will notice sadness. Other times, there will be different emotions. As time goes on, you will realize that you have an entire spectrum of emotions. And each of them has a valuable place in your life.
While sadness and depression are two different things, profound and prolonged sadness is a symptom of depression. If you're wondering if your sadness is due to something more serious, learn more about depression at https://introspectionbeverlyhills.com/depression-therapy/