Deepak Chopra, co-founder of the Chopra Foundation and author of Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges, shows us how to shake off one of life's most debilitating emotions.
We live in a society where a high value is placed on being positive. Yet sometimes this simply isn't possible, and people find themselves facing temporary or long-term sadness. Just telling yourself to "be positive" isn't much help, because moods can have a life of their own. One of the pitfalls of positivity is that people tend to fantasize about a perfect life instead of realistically facing the fact that no life is perfect. Everyone's existence contains challenges, disappointments, frustration and failed expectations. Further, what usually happens is that most of us become passive. We distract ourselves by watching more television or spending more hours on the computer. We wait for sadness to pass and we behave as if nothing bad is going on. Keeping up a good front is important in most people's lives, yet behind the facade can lurk a good deal of fear. Instead of positivity, what's needed is reality. Being realistic means that you drop the main defense that all of us are tempted to employ: denial. The only reason to deny your sadness is if you feel that you can't do anything about it. But there are concrete ways to cope with sadness and gain control over it:
Step 1: Identifying Your Kind of Sadness
It's perfectly normal to have sadness in your life. Some kinds, however, can be a cause for concern. If you are feeling sad at this moment—or have been experiencing a down mood for a while—look honestly at your situation. There are three types of sadness most of us fall into: Short-term sadness: This is a passing mood, lasting a few days or, at most, a week. It sometimes has a cause and sometimes not. The best remedy—as we all know but, sadly, often fail to remember—is to lower your stress, go to bed early and get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, make sure you exercise and break up your normal routine a bit. Boredom, lack of sleep, being too sedentary and excess stress are all associated with a sad mood.
Triggered sadness: This includes a downturn in mood because something undeniably bad has happened to you, such as losing your job or the death of someone close to you. In such a situation, you will generally know what the trigger is. The problem is that most people feel helpless when they enter extended sadness, even when they know there is a good reason for it. In this case, you need to process your sadness, let nature take its course and share your feelings with someone who can counsel and console you. Bottling up your feelings and feeling victimized are never helpful. Triggered sadness lasts an unpredictable length of time, yet in an emotionally healthy adult, within six months there is a return to the level of emotions that existed before the trigger was set off.
Depression: If you feel sad, exhausted, helpless, hopeless and unable to sleep, eat or enjoy sex for a period of time lasting more than a few weeks, you should suspect that you are depressed. There is often a trigger for this condition, but it is usually something that you could normally cope with. When coping breaks down, depression takes over. So if you feel that you can't cope, even with minor stress and ordinary setbacks, mild to moderate depression may be indicated. This is a complicated mood disorder that varies from person to person. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is depressed, a doctor's care is needed.
Next: How to stop sadness at the source