Everyday Sadness, Your Unwanted Companion

Although sadness is an inherent emotion, it isn’t always understood. Learning to understand what it means allows you to make better decisions and become more emotionally competent.
Everyday Sadness, Your Unwanted Companion
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Everyday sadness paints the canvas of your life in shades of grey. You probably wish you were able to accept it a little better. To take advantage of this particular emotion that proves so inspiring to artists, poets, and singers alike. However, you don’t like it. Furthermore, when you experience it, you tend to intensify the sadness even more, allowing it to completely take over your daily life.

Friedrich Nietzsche said that reality can seem terrible at times. Nevertheless, sooner or later we discover it’s not so unbearable and simply put up with it. As a matter of fact, in a way, our emotions and feelings have an inexorable power to endow us with capabilities and values we never knew we possessed. None of these states are useless. This includes sadness.

Paul Ekman is an expert in the field of studying emotion. He claims that there are few psychological realities that actually focus us to the extent that sadness does. In fact, it’s an emotion full of strength and purpose. This is because it acts as a reminder that in order to move forward we must take action.

It’s true that the everyday sadness you feel can often be unbearable. However, this emotion is inherent in life itself. Therefore, if you know how to accept and understand it, you’ll improve your overall well-being.

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”


A tree in a field.

Living with everyday sadness

You might ask if it’s normal to feel moments of sadness in your daily life. Yes, it is. Moments of sadness that come and go throughout the day are completely normal. However, it isn’t normal to feel permanently sad to the extent that it holds you back.

Nevertheless, everyday sadness is often perceived as something negative or can even be viewed as a sign of mental illness. This is basically because of our instinctive desire to avoid it. As a matter of fact, you probably just want to shut your eyes and hope it disappears. Indeed, as children, you probably heard the words “don’t be sad”. When, in fact, what you should’ve been asked is “why are you sad?” and then been helped to handle it.

Sometimes, you put yourself onto autopilot in an attempt to alleviate your sadness. You try and distract yourself. You go shopping, go out with friends, go to the movies ….  This is perfectly acceptable and even advisable, but you’re not listening to your sadness and it needs to be heard. In fact, by silencing your sadness you’re also silencing your ability to enjoy everyday life.

Sadness isn’t the same as depression

You must stop looking at sadness as a negative emotion. In reality, it’s an adaptive emotion with benefits. However, ideas surrounding sadness are often wrong. One such idea, probably the most common, is to associate sadness with depression. In other words, to think that people suffering from depression are “sad”. However, sadness and depression are different. Let’s see why:

Sadness. It’s an adaptive emotion that forms an intrinsic part of your life. It arises when you experience disappointment, pain, or loss. However, it can also occur in moments of happiness. In fact, in these intensely meaningful moments, your senses are significantly heightened overall. Consequently, you may feel fleeting moments of sadness.

Depression. Mood disorders like depression can actually leave you feeling emotionally numb. This means you feel nothing. There’s a void, a sense of deep apathy. At other times, more than sadness, there’s anger, guilt, shame, and even hatred.

A woman suffering from everyday sadness.

The cost of everyday sadness

Everyday sadness, the kind that comes and goes throughout the day comes at a cost. It feels uncomfortable and for that reason, you try and make it disappear. You listen to music, visit a friend, read a book, go shopping, have something to eat. Anything to divert you from the feeling of sadness.

Nitika Garg of the University of New South Wales conducted a study in which she concluded that sadness has both economic and health costs. This is because, generally, when people feel sad, they go out and buy things they don’t need or eat unhealthy foods (high in saturated fats).

These are common behaviors. However, they’re also damaging. For this reason, when you feel sad, the best thing is to face it, not shy away from it. Otherwise, these damaging behaviors will increase and become more permanent.

The surfboard technique for confronting sadness

Surfers are familiar with the enormous challenge of facing a wave. In fact, they eagerly await it, but when it comes they feel a mixture of anxiety and restlessness. The same thing happens with sadness. It’s your long-term companion that comes and goes and when it arrives you feel anxious. However, there’s no point in trying to avoid it. You simply have to face it, just as the surfer faces the wave.

Surfers have basically two techniques. They can ride the wave or do a duck dive. The first means seizing the moment and running with it. Going with the flow, understanding what needs to be done, and doing it. When it’s done correctly, good things happen.

However, sometimes the wave is too big. In the same way, sometimes your sadness is immense. This is when surfers use the duck dive. It means they dive under the wave with their board and let the wave pass over them. Likewise, when you’re faced with no choice, you just have to put up with the moment of anguish. Sooner or later, it goes away. You simply need to put up with it and learn to breathe under the water. Then, you’ll be able to emerge calmly afterward.

Everyday sadness is a part of your life. Learn to face it intelligently.


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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.