Most of us don’t like feeling sad. It’s one of the emotions that are branded as “negative” and so we avoid feeling it. In fact, we avoid it so much that we deny it. We pretend we’re fine when we’re not. We’d sooner lie about it than tell anyone the truth of how we feel. For some reason, our society doesn’t give enough credit to sadness.
This I find odd and fascinating. Yes, sadness doesn’t feel good, but does that mean it’s unimportant? Does that mean it should be hidden? Happiness and sadness are seen as opposites, but they’re both perhaps the most common emotions that we will all feel constantly throughout our lives. So, what does sadness do for us?
Loneliness & Connection
Some of us are busy living, so much so we forget about the people in our lives. We’re doing this thing or that thing, and time passes without spending time with those we care about.
However, we do eventually notice this when we start to feel off. When we get sad because we realise that we’re feeling lonely. This is an important thing for us to feel. Without it, how would we be alerted to our relationships and how they’ve been slipping?
This is how sadness serves us. It is an indicator that something is wrong. It forces us to lift our heads and realise that we don’t have people around us. And then, most of us will rectify this. We will reach out to friends and loved ones and reconnect. It’s a human thing to seek connection, and so sadness helps to keep us tied to this natural need.
As I briefly mentioned, feeling sad helps us to realise that something may be wrong. That something needs our attention, either externally or internally. Feeling sad about something helps us to realise what matters to us.
Becoming sad when you didn’t get the job you wanted shows how much you really wanted it. That you really cared about it. And so, you will try again. Or, if you don’t feel sad, you realise that maybe you didn’t want it like you thought you did.
Feeling sad when we fight with loved ones shows us that we value them in our lives, and it helps us to remember that savouring the relationship is more important than winning an argument.
If you’re sad every day at your job, that is also an indicator that something is wrong and you need to fix it or find a new place to work.
Without feeling sad, we may miss things in our lives. We may prioritise the wrong things. We may make the wrong decisions. We may misunderstand our core values or needs.
I think many of us can agree that we are more likely to introspect when in low moods. When something feels off. This is because, naturally, we go looking for answers as to why we’re feeling this way.
This is how sadness is serving us. When we feel sad, we look within to seek answers. I believe that our inner selves hold all the answers, but not enough of us think to look within. Not in the Western world, anyway. And so, sadness comes along and somewhat forces us to do so. This can then bring on epiphanies and truths that just may change the path of our lives.
Introspection is also a key part of being a creative person, especially a writer, I’d say. Art nearly always includes a part of the creator. We put ourselves into our work; we convey the stories and messages of our own heart. And so, without introspection, we may not tap into this key part of the artistic process. Therefore, sadness perhaps helps the artist along their road.
*I’m not saying artists need to be sad to make good art. I hate that this seems to be a belief for some people! Read my post about false creative beliefs for more info.*
I think sadness is a powerful connector. Not because when we’re sad we all band together (it’s usually the opposite). But I have experienced unparalleled connections with people who can relate to my sadness; who can relate to my personal pain. This is empathy: Emotional understanding of another’s experiences or feelings.
Yes, we can feel happy and connect with other people’s happiness, but I think that it is stronger and more beautiful when you can connect to and understand someone’s sadness. Because sadness can be isolating. It can make you feel alone and like something is wrong with you.
So, when someone comes along and empathises with you, that feels like a breath of fresh air; it feels like hope. And there is no greater connector.
Being sad can slow us down. When we are happy, we are often energetic and busy and content to just go, go, go. As a contrast, I think sadness comes along to slow us down. To make us stop and think and take inventory of our lives.
Sadness forces us to look around and see our lives through a different lens; from a different perspective. When in autopilot, or in a honeymoon-like period in our lives, we can become narrow-sighted. We can miss things that aren’t quite right.
Sadness comes along to then say, “Hey, did you notice that you haven’t looked after yourself properly in a while?” or “Did you notice that your partner hasn’t said a nice thing to you for a long time?”
Similar to my other points, sadness makes us pause, pick up on what’s going on around us, look within, and then make changes. If Happiness is a motivator to go, go, go, then Sadness is a motivator to pause, breathe, and make a change.
Which I think we can all agree is important and needed at key times in our lives. We can’t always be on the move and be blind to the truth.
There you have it, some reasons why Sadness is important in our lives; how it serves us for good reasons. So, don’t hide from it. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t force happiness. Let sadness do what it came to you to do. It is a very important emotion that means you no harm.
If I missed anything, please add your thoughts in the comments below!
I always think about Inside Out, the Pixar film, when I talk about emotions and what they do for us. I think that for many of us, just like in the film, we want Joy (happiness) to take the wheel. We want all happy emotions and experiences and memories.
But as the film suggests, that’s not real life. Especially as we get older, we will experience more of a mixture of emotions. And none of them are bad or good. None of them seeks to hurt us.
Each emotion has a role to play in making us well-rounded.
They all help balance us and help with things like: decision making, connection, motivation, attention, personality, growth, change, and more.
So, let all the emotions do their jobs at the appropriate times.
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