The Sad Road to Happy: How Opening Pandora’s Box Can Be a Happy Gift

Ever notice just how much our culture lauds happiness as a virtue? Shiny smiling appearances, personable extroverts – they seem to get the personal and professional rewards. But what if you’re not Little Miss Sunshine? And is that happiness even real?

A recent UC Berkely study says it’s not! This study looked at the connection between our emotional and psychological health around sadness and concluded that the folks who try to “grin and bear it” wind up being more stressed. Which means people who give themselves permission to actually feel their sadness report fewer mood disorder symptoms in the long run… yep! Those who feel their sadness are HAPPIER.

Here’s how: Emotional Awareness is our ability to understand what we are feeling and why. When you can understand why you’re feeling your particular feels you can make empowered decisions on how to deal with them, rather than reacting. But the first step to this magical process (it’s really not magical – it’s something you can DO quite simply!) is that you first have to FEEL the feelings.

Why bother? When your Emotional Resilience (your ability to bounce back after life’s curveballs have been launched) is high, you can handle daily challenges and the Big Stuff more easily. Think of it as improving your emotional elasticity.

So let’s do some stretching and increase your awareness so you can up your bounce-back quotient!

Sadness comes in different shapes and sizes. It may not be specific to any trigger and it may vary in its intensity, but when you feel blue it’s worth honing in on the flavor of sadness you’re feeling. Doing this gives you a better chance to unravel what’s going on underneath it.

A few flavors are:

  • Unhappy – general sadness.
  • Discouraged – real or perceived failure.
  • Dejected – sounds like rejected, and feels about the same. It’s a feeling of not being accepted or appreciated.
  • Sorrow/Disappointment – felt at losing an opportunity, possession, relationship, or job. It’s not what you were hoping for.
  • Remorse – felt along with regret. You may feel this when your actions inadvertently caused some loss or sorrow.
  • Grief – a deep, consuming, powerful feeling of sadness usually occurring around episodes of major loss.

With that kind of list, it’s easy to see why so many of us try to avoid expressing this basic emotion. Sadness is not a lot of fun – it can be unpleasant, painful, even downright terrifying. Or you may have been given the message that you aren’t entitled to be sad because other people have it worse. We get mixed messages about sadness early on – and they continue in adulthood (see notes about happiness being a lauded virtue).

But what if instead of thinking of feeling our sadness as cascading into an abyss of self pitty or woe-is-me, we think of it as a “moving through”? When we allow our body and mind to release sadness, we are freer to experience true peacefulness, happiness, and even joy. Those are some beautiful benefits! Add to that, experiencing sadness makes us more compassionate with others who are suffering and it can connect us with them.

Grief and sadness have a lot to teach us about honoring where we have been so that we can welcome and create what comes next. When sadness has run its course, and you can trust that it will, it is as if it washes you clean, frees you to see new choices and new directions, and even leaves you feeling a sense of gratitude and open-ness that connects you deeply to life and to other people.

“It’s not about forcing happiness. It’s about not letting the sadness win.”

Want to explore how I can help you get to your Happy Place, sign up for a free Get Traction Now appointment – it’s one of my favorite things to help people see how they can take the driver’s seat to Happy.


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