Although it doesn’t feel good, being sad from time to time is normal. Sometimes we face serious issues that make us feel sad, and sometimes we just feel blah without any apparent reason. The good news is that there are steps you can take to cope with sadness and feel better but first, let’s try to determine what causes your sadness. It is probably safe to suggest that if you clicked on the title of this article, you are feeling sad in absence of any major problems. In other words, you are feeling sad “just because” and you are wondering why this happens.
Some of the most common causes of unexplained sadness are
- Lack of stimulation or excitement
In other words, you are simply bored. It is lack of excitement that makes us feel stuck in a rut and unhappy. Having something to look forward to, being excited about something practically guarantees what most people call happiness. It’s time to take on a new challenge, learn something new, find a new hobby or travel somewhere to shake things up and feel alive again.
You might be surrounded by people without feeling connected to them. It is possible that over time you developed interests, values and standards different from those of your friends and family, and now you are feeling lonely and misunderstood. You may be craving for life different from what you have right now and different from what most people in your surrounding lead but can’t figure out how to satisfy this desire. This results in intense feelings of longing, sadness and pain.
- Feeling unfulfilled
You may have a great family, career and friends, live in a cool place, have interesting hobbies and still feel sad. Oftentimes, the cause of this sadness is a deep internal conflict between your own personal standards and values and the way you are living your life. Your career may be great, but it could be not what you wanted in the first place or, perhaps, you are secretly concerned with some ethical questions related to your work. You may have a dream home, sports car and plenty of money to spend, but if you always craved for simplicity, you might secretly feel guilty and uncomfortable with this type of lifestyle. Whenever we fail to live up to our own internal standards, the result is usually unhappiness and feeling low.
- Lack of control over your environment
To be happy, we need a certain degree of control over our environment. While we should accept the fact that we will never have an absolute control over everything that happens in our life, we need to be able to control basic things like our time, our work, our leisure and to be able to make some other basic choices. If you are overworked or living in a highly controlled environment where somebody else decides everything for you, you might begin to feel frustrated and sad. Similarly, some cultures require people to constantly impress others and worry about what others think about them, which results in feeling trapped and controlled.
A lot of our problems are problems only because we keep thinking about them. If you often find yourself stuck thinking about something that happened or something you are expecting to happen, you are probably overthinking. Your intense focus on the problem can make it seem much worse than it is, and you may even begin to imagine problems that even weren’t there initially. It is oh so hard to just snap out of it, but you should. Some of us have a natural tendency for excessive introspection who seem to be preoccupied with their own thoughts and never look relaxed and happy. Fighting this habit is hard but possible by learning to focus outside ourselves and becoming interested in other people and/or things.
- Lack of sunlight
This may sound weird, but some people are particularly sensitive to the lack of light and tend to fall into depression during winter months. This is still a bit of a medical mystery but it does have an official name — Seasonal Affective Disorder with a funny abbreviation “SAD”. SAD is characterized by bouts of depression during the same time each year, most commonly winter. People with SAD feel “normal” throughout most of the year but fall into depression at the same time each year. The disorder has other names too: winter depression, winter blues, seasonal depression and, less commonly, summer depression for those who don’t feel good during the summer months.
- Underlying health issues
Finally, it is possible that your unexplained sadness is rooted in a health issue you are unaware of. Depression, bipolar disorder, PMS, hypothyroidism and hormonal changes are some of the possibilities. If you feel sad often or if your sadness is overwhelming, ruling out these first should be your priority.
How to Deal With Unexplained Sadness
It should go without saying that any possible health issues should be ruled out first. If you are suspecting that the reason of your unexplained sadness could be one of the illnesses listed above, work with your health provider to address the issue.
If you don’t have any obvious physical reasons to be sad, you still can do a lot to relieve the feeling and lead a happier life. First of all, try to get to the point: What exactly is bugging you? Are you overthinking? Learn to focus outside of yourself. Is it your demanding work? Find a way to cut hours or consider another career. Is it your loving but overly controlling spouse? Try to talk things out to resolve your issues. Are you simply bored? Try mastering a new skill. Is it lack of stimulation? Read books, go for trips or find a way to put yourself in an environment where all your senses are sufficiently stimulated.
Talking to a trusted friend or writing a journal are a good place to start. Sometimes you may find that you need to make drastic changes in your lifestyle to feel good again, however it is important to remember that these changes shouldn’t affect anyone negatively (e.g. your spouse, your children, your family).
Talking things out with a certified counselor may help not only define the core problem but also find a solution that is suitable for everyone involved.
Image source: @dashu83, Freepik