5 Ways To Break The Addiction To Sadness.
I spent almost the entire month of December walking around feeling sorry for myself.
I hate to admit that but it’s true. As soon as December hit, I began reminding others that I was going to be sad that month and asked them to be gentle with me.
What hit me one morning, about three weeks into the month, was that I was choosing to be sad — like, actively (though not necessarily consciously) choosing to be sad. Sadness is not my default setting, so it took great effort to create and sustain this emotion.
Admittedly, I’d had some stressful and shitty things happen over the past few months. However, I realized within minutes of waking up that morning that I had been making a habit of being sad. I hadn’t just been reminding others that I was going to be sad that month, I had actually been reminding myself that I was supposed to be sad, too.
Here’s how it played out that morning — how a series of thoughts chain-linked to allow me to tune into the scripts that had been insidiously running through my brain:
It was Sunday morning. The winter solstice. The script that is set to autoplay every year on that date reflects my love of sunshine, light, and summer… and my fear and loathing of the dark days.
That one was already running when I woke up. Then I immediately hit the start button on the track that was freshly laid down Friday evening when I got a wound-opening and heart-lacerating message from someone who had once been a huge and lovely part of my life.
Next, I began to gradually mix in the track in my head that had been reminding me that Christmas was just four days away and that I was not going to be spending it with my family.
I was sincerely convinced that all of this sadness was real. I was preparing to spend the morning under my covers journaling it all out and chronicling the heaviness of my heart.
By the time I opened my blinds to see the sun shining, started the coffee, turned the lights on in my little Christmas tree, and made my way back to my room, I was smiling and singing Blondie’s Dreaming.
It’s just what happened.
Then the voices in my head got super irritated with me. They loudly and unequivocally reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to be smiling and singing. Obviously they won that round of the argument because I suddenly heard the gloomy triple track mix that I had been listening to earlier. It drowned out Debbie Harry, and I felt drained of energy.
Unfortunately for the voices, they came in too heavy. I was suddenly too tired to write out my world is too much with me late and soon list of woes. Instead, I started flipping through my Instagram feed in search of suitable distraction. I locked on to a post about the solstice.
Instead of focusing on the day’s lack of all that is light and bright, the post issued a reminder:
“Be a leader with honor and integrity. Be bold. Be courageous. You want to breathe deeply. Ground and center yourself before taking action. Then you can move from your heart.”
Then the author quoted Mandela and said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Choose hope, not fear?
Like, actually choose it?
The trifecta of soul-sucking tracks in my head suddenly stopped.
It seems so obvious now, but it was a completely revolutionary moment for me — a full-on legitimate miracle. In an instant, I realized how hard I had been working to prevent myself from choosing hope. Instead, I had been choosing to manufacture sadness and its evil cousins (loneliness, anxiety, fear, resentment, jealousy). It was exhausting.
The second I read that quote, my head cleared and I felt settled and, yup, even happy. More myself. It’s like the auto-hypnosis I had been under suddenly broke.
I did end up journaling, but it wasn’t a macabre list of malcontent. Instead it turned into a record of counterpoint evidence as to why my sadness wasn’t real. It had been fabricated, and choosing it had become nothing more than a bad habit.
To be clear, I knew I would miss my family during holiday season and I was sincerely hurt by the message I received Friday evening. And everyone knows that I am a full-on summer girl who can’t grasp how anyone could ever choose winter as their favorite season. So the sadness associated with those things was real.
However, I had been giving it way too much power and energy, way too much space in my head. The things in my life for which I was (am) grateful far outweigh all of the other stuff.
I know I have written these lists before (eventually I will know them all by heart), but here are a few of the things that helped me that day. These are things I recommend trying whenever you catch yourself making choices based on sadness (or fear, etc.) instead of hope:
The list of things for which I am grateful each and every week easily fills pages in my journal. So, do it! Write out the things (big and small, temporary and enduring) for which you are grateful.
Music always helps me. In addition to Blondie, Joel Thomas Hynes’ new song Livingstone and Lime was in regular rotation as I moved through my day today. If you combine music with dancing, it’s almost impossible to be sad.
Just move. Do something: sweat, get the endorphins flowing, oh — and throw in some inversions (handstands, headstands, standing forward folds), because they are magical.
Pick The Good People
I know there are a million inspirational quotes floating around cyberspace right now about not wasting time on the people who don’t treat you well but it sometimes takes a long time for that to sink in (especially when you are an optimist at heart and truly believe that love changes the world).
I realized that day that I needed to let go of (like, truly let go of) someone who was no longer bringing positive energy to my life. It’s a hard thing for me to do.
Always Take The High Road
Be brave and kind, but know that taking the high road doesn’t always mean letting things pass unanswered. Sometimes the high road involves standing up for yourself. Sometimes it involves saying things to set the record straight.
If all of that fails, eat chocolate and watch Elf. That was going to be my Plan B that day.
Andrea Baker has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology and once knew everything there was to know about Byron and Bundy. She is a certified Yoga teacher and ever-evolving student in Vancouver’s beautiful Yoga community. She has divided her life equally between Canada’s east and west coast … never living far from the sea. The ocean has influenced her writing, her Yoga practice, and her approach to life. She distrusts capital letters, loves sticking eka pada koundinyasana, and wishes she was just a tiny bit taller. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or her blog.