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Living as a Sad Person

Thoughts for the downcast

Alexander Krivitskiy, Pexels, Public Domain
Source: Alexander Krivitskiy, Pexels, Public Domain

Much has been written for people who are clinically depressed. Less discussed are people whose baseline on a 10-point happiness scale is just modestly below average, say 3 or 4.

Such people fall into two types: the characterologically sad and the situationally sad.

Characterological sadness

If you’ve been mildly sad most of your life since childhood, that may just be part of your character. True, your sadness disposition may have, at least in part, been triggered or exacerbated by some event such as child abuse, but because even many abused children don’t experience a lifetime of sadness, your less-than-perky personality may in large measure reflect your temperament.

Ideas based on self-acceptance

Might any of these be helpful to you?

  • As with other personality characteristics, it may be wise to accept your basic self rather than to try to transform your core self, following cheerier types’ intimations or even exhortations to “cheer up,”
  • Should you embrace your seriousness? You may not have as hah-hah a life as do happy-go-lucky types but serious people tend to generate serious accomplishments.
  • Should you spend more time with people of a similar temperament? Being around hale-fellow/gals-well-met may make you feel less accepted. Conversely, some sad people are elevated by hanging with funsters. The question is, how about you?
  • Do you want to tackle work in which seriousness is a plus? For example, would you do better or worse working in a career in which precision was required, such as medical equipment or pharmaceuticals? Would working as a nurse, in hospice, in the clergy, or even in the funeral industry work for you, or would that bring you down more?

Suggestions for improving

If you want to improve, say, to go from a 3 to a 5, might any of these be of value?

  • Take baby steps to improve what would make you happier: Learn to use the computer better? Lose 10 pounds? Accept more about yourself?
  • Inventory what makes you feel better. What activities at work and outside of work make you feel good. Society may expect you to enjoy “fun” activities such as parties, dancing, drinking, etc., but look inward: What makes you feel better? Do more of those things, fewer of others.
  • Practice that core value in many spiritual traditions: gratitude. Would it help to, every day, express gratitude for the good in your life and in the world? You might do that in your journal, in prayer, or even by talking aloud to yourself. For example, it’s easy to be sad when watching or reading the news, but as Steven Pinker points out in his book, Enlightenment Now, today’s world is actually less violent and its people enjoy better quality of life and longevity than at any time in history. Then there are the timeless goods that merit gratitude, for example, children, pets, nature’s handiwork, the pleasures of creative expression, of eating, friendship, love, and yes, sex.

Situational sadness

Some people haven’t always been sad but an event has made them so.

Coming to feel worthless. It can take a toll if a person has been bad at school or was good at school but bad in the work world. Or they've been unsuccessful in relationships: romantic, platonic, or parental. Do you want to focus on your relative strengths even if they're modest, and/or do you want to remediate an important weakness?

Jealousy. Some people have become sad because they saw a peer, friend, or family member succeed while they were languishing. Would it help you to use your jealousy to fuel efforts to compete? Or would you be wiser to compete only with yourself, on your chosen metrics, taking baby steps toward being your best self?

Loss. Most people become sad after losing a parent, intimate partner, friend, or having had a career setback. Would you be wiser to continue to process the loss or to force yourself to take baby steps forward?

Disease. A bad diagnosis would sadden anyone. Would it help you to picture the worst, to focus on the most likely outcome, or on an optimistic one? To talk about it or suppress it? Do you want to pull out all the stops to try to cure your disease or take a more moderate approach?

The takeaway

As with most things, sadness is best addressed by some individualized amalgam of self-acceptance, processing sad thoughts, suppressing them, and baby steps forward.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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