Feeling sad about a situation is no fun, but the last thing you may want is for those negative feelings to stick around longer than you'd like them to. Getting upset is part of life, but if you don't want to dwell or get into a funk, you can try out some mental tricks for how to be less sad when the feeling is sticking around. This doesn't mean you should ignore your emotions or bury them deep. Instead, it means you can take the necessary, healthy steps to compartmentalize a situation and not allow it to make things more difficult.
"Most people have more control over feelings of sadness than they acknowledge," Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a psychiatrist with Doctor on Demand, tells Bustle. "By harnessing more control over your thoughts, feelings and actions, then acknowledging how all these are connected, you can make all the difference in the world in how you perceive difficult times. Choose to think positively, remember who you are and what your priorities are, and think about how external factors trigger you — both positively and negatively."
However, if you notice that this sadness persists, and is affecting your daily life, it may be a good idea to talk with a loved one or possibly a professional about depression. These tips may help when sadness is situational, but if the feeling remains long past a situation is over, it may be time to talk to someone you trust about how to best help your mental health.
Unfortunately, we can't wish wish away uncomfortable feelings, but we can learn to manage them so they can go away faster. Here are nine mental tricks experts say can help you move past something making you sad more quickly.
Distract Yourself With Something You Love To Do
When a situation is continuously bothering you, sometimes getting your mind off of something can do wonders. "Don't avoid larger issues, but short-term distraction techniques can go a long way towards helping you feel better faster," says Benders-Hadi. "Do something you love, listen to music, look at pictures of happy memories, or spend time with friends you have fun with. Pretty soon you'll forget all about the sadness you felt before." This may be especially good for circumstances out of your control — when a future outcome is upsetting you, take a break from thinking about it, and find ways to enjoy yourself instead.
It might be hard to focus on what you're happy about in a moment of sadness, but shifting your focus to what you are grateful for can help you cope emotionally. "It stimulates positive emotions and memories and helps us to have perspective on our loss and hurt," clinical psychologist Dr. Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D. tells Bustle. "The trick is to honor and express the sadness, but not to let it dominate all aspects of your life. Gratitude will give you a safety net to protect you from rumination." A good way to start? Make a list of the top 10 things you're grateful for each day, and allow yourself to feel the joy it brings you. This pivot in thought can do a lot more than you may think.
Talk It Out
Verbalizing how you feel — and getting support from others — can work wonders. "When we talk with others, it decreases the feeling of being alone in a difficult situation," Dr. Jennifer Gentile, PsyD, a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online, tells Bustle. "You may also hear a friend’s story that may be similar or worse. Hearing this story will help to normalize the experience, and see that other people have gotten through a difficult time, and you may even learn a new strategy of how to cope."
Schedule Time To Feel Your Feelings
If you find that you're bottling up your emotions around your friends or family, set aside a designated time to feel what you feel, maybe cry, and process. "This helps when you feel like sadness is overshadowing your entire life," says Ruan. "If you are having difficulty holding back tears at work, knowing you have scheduled an hour of quiet time that evening to cry, journal, look at old pictures, or talk to a friend about it can help you function the rest of your day. Also, setting a time limit on your grief time gives a sense of safety in the boundaries around the time."
Find New Ways To Express Yourself
Words can't always capture and express our emotions adequately, so it can be useful to express ourselves through non-verbal means. "Sometimes drawing, painting, or even making a collage of images cut-out from a magazine can help us to express sadness," says Ruan. "If you feel like you have a big ball of sadness inside that you can't get out or express, you can try physical activity like dancing, running, or yoga. Even rocking back and forth or giving yourself a hug can help comfort you. Emotions and verbal communication aren't processed in the same areas of the brain, so verbal expression might not be adequate to help you fully grieve."
Engage With Positive Things
Make a point to include positive things into your day that will distract or uplift you. "Our memories are very mood dependent, which means when we feel sad, our brain accesses only sad memories, not the happy ones," says Ruan. "This can lead to a feeling of despair and hopelessness. Seeing a funny movie, petting an animal, going for a run, or other activities that trigger emotions of joy or wellbeing can help our brain access happy memories and will help us keep a balanced perspective of our lives and our current emotional state."
Look For Solutions
It's OK to allow yourself to feel sad for a bit, but don't let it last too long — start looking for some solutions to your problems instead. "Do you need to limit contact with someone in your life for a period? Indefinitely? Give yourself space to feel the way you do, then resolve to restart and move on," says Benders-Hadi. Focus on self-care and what solutions can possibly make you feel better during this time.
It's easy to get caught up on seeking happiness from things like success or relationships, but you might find that if you focus inward, you'll feel better more quickly. "Look for ways to find happiness and joy from within," says Benders-Hadi. "No matter what may be going on in your personal or work life, take control of how you choose to approach the world moment to moment and focus on that."
Everyone copes with sadness differently, but try out these different mental tricks to find out which work best for you.