The importance of sadness

Sad, somber, melancholy, sorrowful, low, emotional, pensive.

Who wants to be sad? No one, surely. Why would anyone want to feel sad? Doesn’t that usually mean that something bad has happened? That someone has wronged you, hurt you, disappointed you? Well, quite often yes.

We are socialized to ‘just get through things’ or ‘toughen up’ so it makes sense that our first inclination would be to avoid experiencing sadness (or other negative emotions) in order to be resilient

But sadness is an incredibly important human emotion. It’s one of the four main emotions that we experience. Yet we live in a culture that values positivity over sadness.

Besides the grief I have experienced with the loss of my mother, many other times where I felt a level of sadness I have wondered why. Whether someone has said something nasty to me, I’ve read a sad story, felt used, left out, whatever the case may be. I have questioned the validity of that sadness and questioned whether or not I was being over-sensitive. Even more so because I am a man.

But to feel, acknowledge, and fully embrace sadness teaches us a lot about ourselves and how we identify with our surrounding environment and everything that it encompasses.

I live in England where the “stiff upper lip” culture is still pretty rife, and I come across it daily. I see people bottling up their emotions and not dealing with them, and because of this there is a coldness about them. A rigidity and a lack of know-how when it comes to engaging with others. It is really sad to see.

For a long time I felt no happiness. I almost forgot what it felt like to be happy. To smile genuinely, to laugh wholeheartedly. And during this period sadness served as a reminder, telling me that I was alive. If it weren’t for feeling sad I would have felt entirely numb.

And because I allowed myself to really feel that sadness, and continue to do so today, I have learned so much about myself. I have learned how to look after myself during those low moments. I have built habits and tools to manage. I have become more empathetic and a better listener, and I have become more sensitive to others.

Allow it. Feel it. Befriend it. It is there to protect you and help you. Don’t deny yourself the ability to feel sad, one of human’s most primitive emotions. By doing so you are denying yourself a truly beautiful part of yourself.

This post refers to shorter term sadness. If you are experiencing long term low mood and sadness please speak to your doctor.

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