No one can deny that feeling happy is one of the best feelings and many of us strive to live a happy life. This constant strive for happiness can mean that when we do feel down (which we all will at times) it can lead to us feeling guilty, frustrated or feeling like we are wrong to not feel happy all the time.
Of course we all go through times where we may be overwhelmingly sad given circumstances in our life, but what about the times where there isn’t necessarily a “reason” for us to feel down? I have recently been feeling down following handing in my thesis, an event that I thought would bring me a lot of happiness. Although I was relieved, I was surprised to feel so low about the whole thing.
I became frustrated and annoyed at myself for not being able to bounce back into a positive mindset, I felt out of line with how I wanted to feel and I became demotivated to follow any of my own advice that I have given over the past year as part of this very blog! This led me then to feel like a fraud and like I’m not fit to write about mindfulness and positivity.
The turning point for me came from listening to two podcasts that I regularly listen to, ‘Style your Mind’ and ‘The Jess Lively Show’ (links at the end of the post). Both of them covered how to deal with feeling unhappy or “out of alignment” in the same week. I found this a bit of a coincidence as normally these podcasts are very upbeat. Coincidence or not, I appreciated the timing of their message and it helped me to appreciate that everyone can’t be happy all of the time.
But appreciating that we shouldn’t aim to be happy all of the time is half of the battle. It is still unpleasant to feel down. So how can we effectively deal with these negative feelings? Jess Lively quoted Michael Singer’s book “The Untethered Soul” with advice on how we could benefit from re-framing the way we view sadness. Singer notes that a lot of our negative emotions are caused by a fear of negativity itself, in the sense that we find feeling down uncomfortable and it’s natural to want to avoid any type of pain. But actually becoming confident in your ability to cope and also becoming confident in the knowledge that any pain is temporary and will eventually pass, can help to make us more resilient in the long run.
Another way to consider negative emotion could be to think of it as a bruise. You know it’s there, and you know that if you keep touching it, it will still hurt, but eventually the pain and bruise will fade if you leave it alone. It’s the same with negative thoughts, if we can do our best to not obsess over our negative thoughts, the pain will eventually fade. “Sadness cannot touch you if you don’t touch it”, so to speak. Understanding what has caused the “bruise” may help us to put the pain into perspective. Sometimes however, negative feelings aren’t always “caused” by something that is easily identifiable.
In this case, the guest on Style your Mind, Keryl Pesce, the author of “Happy Bitch”, suggested imagining your feelings like a board of directors in your mind, and that when we feel low one option could be to pause and ask “What is this feeling trying to tell me?”. Appreciating that although negative thoughts don’t always put their message across in the nicest way, they may well be trying to tell us something helpful. We may be harming ourselves by trying to ignore any feeling that isn’t positive, hence why it is important to not try to be constantly be happy. Lively suggested looking at sadness as a way to contrast what you want and what you don’t want. Feeling down helps to show us what we do want and may help to point us in the right direction.
So although these last few weeks have been tougher than I’d imagined, I really feel like I’ve learnt an important lesson that it’s actually ok to not be 100% happy all of the time and I am finding it quite comforting to think of sadness like a bruise that will eventually fade. A few weeks on from hand in, I am definitely getting back to positivity, but I’m trying not to rush the process anymore. Sometimes you just have to relax into whatever feeling it is that you’re having and be confident in the fact that this too, will pass.
Thank you as always for reading.
Blog Post: How it feels to hand in your thesis
Podcast: Style your Mind
Podcast: The Jess Lively Show
Book: ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer
Book: “Happy Bitch” by Keryl Pesce