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June 28, 2020
The Internet is changing the world every day. People communicate across oceans, buy internationally, and broadcast their lives all over the world with the swipe of a finger. Although life in the digital age is interconnected and ever-changing, one characteristic of the human condition has lingered: the inescapable case of the blues. For many, sadness is uncomfortable. It can be tough to experience and even harder to understand.
One reason relates to cultural values. As a collective, we don’t enjoy feeling sad. We certainly don’t enjoy talking about it. People smile when they’re feeling down. We are not encouraged to cry or express sadness. The feeling still bottles inside, leading us to wonder why our attempts at pushing through sadness fall flat. In a culture that values positivity and happiness, it’s no wonder why feeling sad can feel wrong.
A cultural intolerance for sadness translates to the digital realm. Social media presents photos of happy families on vacation, beautiful toothy grins, and couples in romantic bliss. There is rarely a social media photo displaying genuine sadness. When these images contradict our feelings, we feel alone and abnormal, even though we are neither.
Despite a collective avoidance of sadness, it’s a feeling that is impossible to escape. Instead of trying to avoid the discomfort of the emotion, people should recognize the normalcy of it. Normalizing sadness makes it more comfortable to feel.
Talk to a friend or family member when you’re feeling down.
Sharing common feelings and experiences connects us. One upside to living in the digital age is that there are so many opportunities to connect with people. Reading discussion forums, utilizing online counseling and support groups, even just listening to a YouTube video or a podcast can help us normalize difficult emotions. It’s much easier to see sadness as normal when people experience it together.
Understand that social media is not real life.
A photo on social media is simply a moment in time. Have you ever smiled for a picture when you weren’t feeling great? Many people instinctively smile in front of a camera, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy. Remember that people typically share only the joyful moments of their lives, especially on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. They don’t share all the challenging, sad, ugly, or uncomfortable moments, even though those moments are universal.
Change your perception of sadness.
Sadness feels uncomfortable when we interpret it as an unnatural emotion. Recognize that it is okay to be unhappy. Instead of denying the feeling, embrace it. Remember that sadness is a universal emotion. Try to experience it fully. Talk to a loved one, cry if you feel the urge, or write your feelings in a journal. Fully leaning into sadness can connect you to your humanity and the humanity of others who have felt the same way.
In our fast-paced, interconnected world, it can feel like there’s no time to take a breath. But if you take time to tend to your emotional health, you will be better prepared to handle the ebb and flow of modern life and feel more comfortable with sadness.
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