Sunday, 19 October 2014

What to do when you're feeling blue

Psychologists largely agree that there are six basic human emotions: anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness and sadness. It is our ability to feel these emotions, to recognise these emotions, and to handle these emotions that makes us truly human. Truly beautifully human. Our emotions set us aside from other creatures; they inform our words, our actions, and our decisions on a daily basis. In my experience, we cannot really control our emotions, they come and go based on our surroundings, our experiences, our hormones: we are in a constant state of emotional change - it's all part of our human nature. Now I'm not about to launch into an essay about emotions, and I'm not claiming to be a qualified psychologist, but I've been feeling a little blue recently, so I thought it might be helpful to get it all in writing - after all, bloggers are mainly preaching to themselves!

On a daily basis our social media feeds are filled with photos of our friends, celebrities and influencers having fun with their friends, visiting nice places, enjoying great food, and generally painting a rather happy existence. John's had a great night, yoga girl is on the beach (again), and Sarah's tucking into a delicious meal - everyone's happy and more than willing to share it with the world. Happiness is well documented in social media land. 

Anger, fear, disgust and surprise all seem to have their place too - Fred tweets his anger to South West trains that he can never get a seat in the morning, people all over social media are pretty fearful about ebola, everyone's expressing their disgust about the latest child abuse case, and Laura's surprised by the ending of Gone Girl. (Disclaimer: not all of the examples here are fact). It seems that these five emotions are each well documented and accepted within society and people are not afraid to discuss them. But in my experience this isn't so much the case with sadness. 

Due to the recent tragic loss of Robin Williams, depression and other such mental illnesses are discussed more frequently in the media and myths surrounding these illnesses are gradually becoming demystified. However sadness is not to be confused with depression. Depression is a mental illness, sadness is simply a human emotion. Yet sadness makes us feel so uncomfortable, even embarrassed. So, let's discuss sadness. Let's dispel the discomfort and accept that it's part of our human nature. Quite often we ignore our sadness and simply let it pass. But what if we used it as an opportunity to grow and to embrace feeling fully human?

Let me put it out there: sadness is normal. It is a normal part of being a human being. It is simply a human emotion, and one that we must feel to be completely human. And really that is a beautiful thing. It's not something to be embarrassed about or to shy away from. It's okay to be sad from time to time. It simply means you're alive. 

When you're feeling down try to focus on things you're grateful for and things that make you happy

That being said, no one wants to be a sad Sally too often, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of my tried and tested tips for overcoming those times when you are sad. Firstly make yourself a good cuppa and then:

  1. Acknowledge it. You're feeling sad - acknowledge how it feels, recognise it as sadness. How does it feel? Why do you feel this way? Perhaps you've had a bad day at the office, perhaps you're grieving, perhaps it's your hormones. Acknowledging that you are sad and addressing why is a great first step to using it as an experience to learn from and to grow. 
  2. Talk about it. Find a friend, a relative, anyone who is willing to listen and just talk it through. Why are you feeling sad? Is there anything they can do? Do you simply need someone to listen? But once you've talked it through with a couple of different people try not to dwell on it. Listen to their advice and try to move forward. It's great to acknowledge it and to have the courage to talk it through, but there's only so much people will listen to, and you won't grow if dwell on it for too long.
  3. Quiet time. Once you've acknowledged it and spoken to other people about your sadness, have some time alone to process it. Quiet time is your time to process emotions, to process experiences, and to heal and grow. I was feeling sad for much of last week so on Friday night I came home, rolled out my yoga mat under the stars, did a yoga practice, and then sat quietly for about half an hour just being quiet and having a good cry. And that's okay. I was sad, so I cried. I'm human. That's what being human is. And embracing that human emotion actually does us a world of good.
  4. Focus on things you're grateful for. Being sad does not mean that you're being ungrateful, so even when you are feeling down remember to practice gratitude. Even use that happy social media feed that you've been presenting to the world as a tool for this - remember what an amazing holiday you had in the summer, look at that photo of you with your friends - just try to be grateful. And try not to think about the things you don't have at present; U2 were perfectly right when they sung "what you don't have you don't need it now" so just be grateful for all the things you do have right here, right now. 
  5. Make a plan. My short term plan-making advice would be to do something that makes you happy almost instantly - don't sit in your quiet time forever just dwelling on your sadness; you've acknowledged and processed it, now it's time to get over it. Meet up with a friend that makes you smile, go to a gig, go for that run, dance around your living room - just do something that will be fun. And if you're sadness is rooted in something more long term, i.e. you're always getting sad about your job, or you're always sad about not having money etc., then make a more long term plan of action. This way you're being proactive in finding a solution and you're less likely to get so sad about it in the future.
So don't be afraid of sadness, embrace it as part of your humanity. Of course if you think your sadness could lead to depression, or if you think you are depressed, then do seek professional help. Also if your sadness is rooted in something such as grief then this process will take a lot longer and the wounds will be harder to heal, but hopefully at least some of these tips will be useful to you. 

The Beautifully Healthy Project is all about celebrating the Beautifully Healthy version of you, and to be Beautifully Healthy is also to be Beautifully Human, so take everything that goes with that. The happy, the sad, everything. Just be you. Just be human. 

Love Lucy x


  1. Love your blog Lucy! And can feel the beautiful honesty flowing through this; so grateful to you for sharing this :-) xx