Six Ways To Ease Sadness

Scientific American reports on University of Pittsburgh research that says cheerful women live longer:

Women who were most cheery were 30 percent less likely to die of heart disease and 14 percent less likely than their pessimistic peers to die from all causes during the study period.

Researchers looked at data from 97,253 women.  The writer is careful to say that cheerfulness is a link, not a cause of longevity.  Nothing is said on whether cheerfulness assists men in a similar way, but it seems logical that it does.

The Book of Proverbs commends cheerfulness:

A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.  (17.22 NRSV)

The opposite of cheerfulness is sadness.  In some situations sadness is a good and necessary thing.  When our beloved cat Carly died, we cried tears of sadness.  But when sadness arises from an inexplicable source, or it doesn’t lessen over time, then it can be a problem.  This kind of sadness can sabotage any potential for peace and joy.  This may be why the tradition of spiritual theology lists sadness as one of the Eight Deadly Thoughts, which was precursor to the Seven Deadly Sins.  Sadness can be deadly because it ‘dries up the bones’ and pulls us away from God and life.

I’m prone to sadness.  Sometimes for no reason a melancholy mood comes over me.  But I’ve found a few simple remedies.

1.  Exercise.  Physical activity will cleanse away sad thoughts.

2.  Affirmation.  Repeating a phrase like, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”  This replaces the negative thought with a positive one.

3.  Humor.  Laughing at jokes, stories and silly television commercials.  Even the simple act of smiling can lift my spirits.

4.  Nature.  Experiencing the beauty of a flower, a tree or the rain.

5.  Creativity.  Any creative activity can dispel sad thoughts.

6.  Sharing.  If I share sadness with a friend it weighs less on the heart.  This includes sharing it with God in prayer. 

On Saturday, when I began a draft of this post, I felt sad and listless for no reason.  I wanted to do anything — even poke nails in my eyes — rather than work on my sermon.  So I began writing about the sadness (#5).  Later I went for a walk (#1).  By Elm Street it started raining (#4), and by the time I reached home, my clothing was soaked and streams of water were pouring down my face.  I laughed (#3) at the foolish man who went out without an umbrella.  By the time I dried off, the sad thoughts were gone, and a cheerful spirit returned.

I have no urge to live longer, but I do want to live better, and sadness inhibits life.  Chronic sadness may require medical attention.  In the more modest forms I’ve experienced, these are some of my strategies for combating it.

What do you do to ease sadness and foster cheerfulness?

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4 Responses to Six Ways To Ease Sadness

  1. Songbird says:

    I don’t know that I have an answer for your question; my contrast seems to be on the anxiety-to-calm spectrum instead. But I did notice in my first call the difference between seniors in the congregation who were cheerful and those who were not. The former rebounded from difficulties much more easily. Is this brain chemistry? Can we overcome it behaviorally, if so? I wonder.

  2. Chris says:

    Songbird,

    I don’t know how much of these things can be attributed to brain chemistry. When I was a chaplain at a psychiatric hospital, I remember the doctors talking about ‘chemical imbalances in the brain’ as the cause of mental illness.

    I’m interested now in things I can do, and I’ve found that my actions (to an extent) can influence my attitudes. Maybe those actions change the brain chemistry itself.

    I think you’re right about cheerful seniors.

    Peace to you.

  3. ginger says:

    hi! I’m suffering from sadness these few weeks. i don’t have any drive to do work. i dont have much problem but I still feel so empty and melancholic. Maybe it’s because of my new work. It’s not what I’m used to do but I have to do it. Or maybe because I’m alone most of the time at work. My friends are also far from me. I’m used to a very hectic schedule and my present schedule is quite slow for me. It’s not that it is not as demanding, but it is not the type of work that I love to do. I cant quit work because I receive good salary. I feel so bored and unfulfilled. I tried to count y blessings and talking to my spouse and to my sister. In a way, it lightens my feeling but I keep on coming back to the same feeling. I find it too difficult because I dont have much reason to be sad but I still feel it. Im 35 years old, with 3 kids and I have a wonderful husband. My sister even told me that I almost have everything in life. i know it but Im still sad. Im on medication because of Bipolar I. My doctor said Im in the cycle where I feel so down. I continue my meds but still the same. Now, I keep on reading about ways on how to ease sadness, depression or boredom. and writing to you in a way eases how I feel. Thanks.

  4. Chris says:

    Hello Ginger. It is good that my little post helped you. I hope you are able to feel less and less sad. Peace to you today.

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