Science Agrees, It's Okay to Feel Sad Sometimes

sad dog wrapped in a brown blanket sitting on top of a bed
via Unsplash

You don't always need to turn that frown upside down.

Plot Twist: It's Okay to Feel Sad Sometimes

Ever wake up in a funk and can't shake it? Or maybe bad news has hit you hard and you've felt sad for a few days. Guess what, it's normal to feel sad sometimes. In fact, feeling sad can help you in a lot of ways. Of course, there's a difference between feeling down sometimes and depression and it's important to know the difference in needing help or needing to cry.

Society (and maybe ourselves) have instilled a notion that it's not okay to be sad and that we should power through sad thoughts and emotions. Well here I am, telling you that is not the case. It's okay to be sad! Let the river flow through those gorgeous eyes of yours. If you wake up in the morning and state, "I feel sad", unpack that! Or don't... f e e l your feelings. Cry if you have to, after all it's incredibly cathartic. There are many reasons why it's okay to feel sad.

If you take a quick scroll through YouTube, there are tons of videos of bloggers speaking about feeling sad. Even the popular kid's show, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood teaches young ones the very same notion—it's okay to feel sad sometimes because "little by little you'll feel better again." Sadness is okay but many people feel the need to hide it, cry in the bathroom, or push negative emotions deep down (hey that's not healthy). And I'm here to tell you, it's okay to cry. It's okay to feel sad. Don't hide it. Cry in front of your boss if you have to (speaking from experience, oops) sure, it might scare them, but it will make you feel better.

As my personal hero, Tina Fey once wrote;   

"Some people say "never let them see you cry." I say, if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone."  

There are many reason why it's okay to feel sad sometimes so never let anyone tell you otherwise.

You Learn More About Yourself (and Others) When You're Sad

Have you seen the Pixar movie, Inside Out? A large theme of the children's movie was to teach us that it's okay to be sad, in fact you need to be sad sometimes. Pushing such feelings away or deep down will only result in something bigger, and potentially worse.

If you're sad for obvious reasons (a death in the family, losing a job), it's pretty straightforward. But maybe you hear a song and get sad and wonder whoa, where did that come from? Maybe it reminded you of a time in your life, or a person. If you think about why something made you sad, you might learn more about yourself. The other day, I smelled my grandmother's home. She no longer lives there but I spent my summers in her cabin-like house in Wyoming. The smell brought me back to playing with Barbies on her green carpet. A rush of sadness hit me. But I knew why I was sad—nostalgia. Knowing why I was sad made me understand how important that time was to me and more importantly, that I needed to call my grandma.

Greater Good Magazine at UC Berkeley found how sadness works in the brain, and what advantages sadness may bring. They found that sadness can improve memory, increase motivation, and improve interactions in some cases. In addition, they found that "sadness can improve judgment." Yep, being sad can help you learn more about yourself, and others.   

"We repeatedly find that people are more likely to make social misjudgments due to biases when they are happy. When happy or sad participants in one study were asked to detect deception in videotaped statements of people accused of theft (who were either guilty or not guilty), participants in negative moods were more likely to make guilty judgments—but they were also significantly better at correctly distinguishing between deceptive and truthful suspects."

The take away? Being sad might allow you to read people correctly.

"So negative mood can improve the accuracy of impression formation judgments, by promoting a more detailed and attentive thinking style."

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

Another reason sadness should flourish inside of you? Priorities. Sadness can put life into perspective.

Learning Mind explains:

"If we take the time to really think about our feelings of sadness, rather than suppressing or ignoring them, we can often come up with surprisingly insightful thoughts about our lives, perhaps realizing that certain relationships are causing us pain or that we are walking the wrong path in life. Often, periods of sadness can be a sign that we are not taking the time to do important things like connecting with others, taking part in enjoyable activities, spending time in nature or just resting and relaxing."

Realizing why one thing makes you sad gives you purpose. If you're sad a friend won't call you back, you might want to reconnect more than you previously thought.

Sadness Makes You Stronger

If you turn your sadness into something productive, it'll make you stronger. It's okay to be sad, because if you turn that sadness into understanding, or acceptance, you will become a stronger individual.

The Telegraph UK makes a great point:

"Like the saying 'what does not kill me, makes me stronger,' being sad and melancholic can leave sufferers better able to cope with life's challenges, more resilient, and spur them to greater achievements, it is claimed."

So if you think being sad makes you weaker, you are mistaken. Sadness is an inevitable part of life and can be as common as happiness. It's okay to be sad sometimes, it's good for you.