Emotions of sadness and grief often expose the depth of a person’s feelings of loss, love, or longing. Cutting off those feelings may result in losing connection to the heart. If there is no time for grieving, the feeling of loss mounts until you develop a fear of the hollow place inside.
However, dwelling too long in a state of sadness can cause you to cultivate a chronic state of sadness. Neurologist John Arden shows that sustained thoughts and feelings of sadness can lead to a neurological perpetuation of sad thoughts and feelings.
For instance, in grieving about a divorce, people may have thoughts such as, “How could I have let this happen?” or “I’m no good at relationships,” or “I’ve been so stupid.” If sadness turns to brooding over thoughts like this, the thoughts become neurologically connected with the feeling of sadness. A person then can become stuck in a rut of obsessive negative thinking.
Dr. Arden states,
The longer you stay in a low emotional state, the greater is the probability that those neurons will fire together when you are sad and will therefore wire together. As a result, this will become the chronic foundation of your emotional experience.
Succumbing to and remaining in a perpetual state of sadness can cause a vicious cycle that makes it hard to move onto other emotional states.
While it is necessary and healthy to feel sadness at times and to grieve, it is important to avoid creating an entrenched neuro-network of sadness. It becomes necessary to seek situations where one can experience other thoughts and feelings.
After experiencing some time of grieving for a loss, ask yourself “What could I learn from this?” By focusing on learning and growing, you break the negative emotional cycle. Ask yourself questions, such as, “What could I do to make my life more fulfilling?” or “What thoughts would make me feel more gratitude right now?”
Here are some ideas of how to step out of all-consuming sadness:
– Try calling a friend just to say hello.
– Play music from a time in your life attached to good memories.
– Volunteer at a local hospital, church, or community center.
– Pick a language, any language you’ve ever wanted to learn, and enroll in a course in person or online.
– Improve your vocabulary in your own language (http://www.vocabulary.com/.)
– Write a list of projects you’ve always wanted to do, but never had time for (painting, re-organizing, etc.), and pursue one and take the first step towards making that a reality.
Sadness is a deep human emotion that highlights the transience of life. It is a reminder that life wants to be lived whole-heartedly.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
Reference: Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life by John B. Arden.