I think it's safe to say that no one actively wants to experience sadness. Aside from anger or disappointment, it's pretty much the last emotion people look forward to, and often when we experience sadness, we try to push it away or conceal it as quickly as possible. But while there's definitely a line where it can become unhealthy to be sad, it's important to remember that it's healthy to feel sad sometimes, too. We've all heard the old adage, "Don't waste time being sad when you could be happy instead" — but that doesn't mean that you're not allowed to feel sad ever. In fact, allowing yourself to feel sad can be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Why? Because sadness is a real and valid emotion, just like happiness, and you owe it to yourself to let yourself fully experience your sadness and understand it. Generally speaking, emotions are reactive. They don't appear out of nowhere, and if something recurs in your mind, it's probably worth investigating and exploring more. Sure, that may mean finding a resolution so you can move on from the sadness to something better; sometimes, though, the investigation itself is what you end up learning about yourself from, and that's OK and important, too.
After all, we can't change the past, but we can change the way it continues to affect us into the future. There's no need to brush your sadness under the rug before you spend some time understanding it and where it comes from. Here are five key benefits of exploring your sadness:
Negative Feelings Can Be Integral To Our Survival
Studies show that as a whole, when we experience negative emotions (including sadness, anger, distrust, etc.), it likely stems from an instinct that our situation or circumstances are somehow bad or unsafe for us. Now, depending on the circumstances, our reaction could turn out to be based on our assumptions of the situation, lack of accurate information, personal bias, and so on — that is to say, our "gut" response isn't necessarily the correct one. But if your sadness is constant around the same issue or situation, or certain things continuously trigger your sadness, it's definitely worth investigating that more, because it's possible that situation is negatively affecting you in ways you aren't fully cognizant of yet, or has negatively impacted you in the past in ways you haven't yet healed from.
Sadness Builds Emotional Maturity
Bad experiences change all of us. Sometimes hardships can make us feel bitter or resentful, especially if we've been the victim of something we see as unjust. In the ideal scenario, you wrestle with your sadness until you use it as a tool for growth. Depending on the circumstance, you may need the support of a trusted friend, partner, or mental health professional to get you through your sadness to a place where you can feel that you've grown and matured, but I think it's an important transition to experience regardless. Once you show yourself that you can bounce back from one thing, you have that in your emotional arsenal for the next hardship life puts in your path.
Sadness Can Help You Develop Bonds
I know we've all heard that "misery loves company." I'm not necessarily advocating that you build your relationships around shared unhappiness, but I think owning up to your own sadness and the things that might be causing it can allow to you connect with others who face similar struggles. Support systems are really important when it comes to sadness, especially if you're actually veering into depression. It can be tempting to cover up our sadness and have it exist only internally, but I think sharing your feelings in a safe space can allow you to take ownership of the issue. It also gives you the opportunity to hear outside perspectives and may shed light on where your own sadness stems from and how it impacts you in ways you may not even realize on your own.
Negative Emotions Can Boost Creativity
Sadness Can Improve Your Memory
One recent study showed that on rainy, dreary days (which typically result in bad moods and sadness), subjects are more likely to remember items they've seen in stores accurately than when asked the same questions on sunny, bright days. On sunnier days (when people were in better moods), people were more likely to remember items as better than they were, and happier people were less likely to notice details. Essentially, this study sums up the notion that when we're in a bad mood, we're more likely to see the situation exactly as it is, without glamorizing or "building up" anything, so later, when we "return to a scene" in our memories, it's likely to be more accurate than something we witnessed when we were in a particularly good mood, when everything is seen through proverbial rose colored glasses.
While chronic sadness can definitely be a problem (and something you may want to see a mental health professional or other trusted confidant about), I think it's important for us all to recognize that sadness is as real and valid as any other human emotion, and that instead of hiding it away or feeling ashamed of our sadness, it can be beneficial to use our sadness as a means of self-exploration and discovery.