“What Are You Sad About?”

How answering that question can help you get happier.

Posted Feb 26, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina

No author listed, CCO, Hippopx
Source: No author listed, CCO, Hippopx

During a session today, I asked a question I had never asked before: “What are you sad about?” The client raised a number of new issues: about a relationship, an ailment, even the meaning of it all.

I then asked a friend the same question, which also unearthed new and surprising concerns. I then asked myself the same question and it too was evocative.

So, what are you sad about?

It may be easier to answer that question if it's posed within categories and with an example.

Work. Let's say you're unhappy with your lack of agency: You feel like a marionette, a constrained cog in a very large wheel, whether a corporation, nonprofit, in government, or simply as merely one person scrambling amid eight billion others, a mere grain of sand on an enormous beach.

What might your wiser twin suggest you do? Perhaps it’s to tweak your job or change it, or come up with or join a volunteer activity that your workplace can do in the community. Or maybe it’s to take pleasure in life’s simple things: kindness, appreciating a flower, or, as I just experienced, an unexpected zephyr.

So, is there something you’re unhappy about in your work life or lack thereof? If so, what, if anything do you want to do about it?

Romantic relationship. Let's say you wish the conversations with your partner were deeper. Perhaps you might ask a more intimate question or two to see where that takes you. Or decide that your need for more intimate conversation might be better served by talking with one of your platonic friends.

So, is there something about your romantic relationship that you’re unhappy with? If so, what, if anything would you like to do about it?

Platonic relationship. Let's say you lack a close friend. You might put yourself in an environment where you're likely to meet a kindred spirit: perhaps it's a class, political forum, some socially-distanced outdoor gathering, or volunteer at a mass-vaccination or mass-testing site. Zoom book clubs are popular and a place to meet thoughtful people.

So, is there anything about your platonic relationships that you’re unhappy about? If so, is there anything you want to do about it?

Familial relationship. For example, maybe you’re unhappy about being estranged from a family member. Would the Wise One within you reach out to that person? Have an intermediary do it? Decide to wait for a more propitious time? Or decide that the relationship is permanently estranged or that you’re wise to not try to patch things up, at least for now?

So, is there something you're unhappy about in your familial relationships? If so, is there something you want to do about it?

Money. For example, perhaps fueled by pandemic cabin fever, you’re spending too much. Perhaps the God or Goddess within would ask to cut back on a specific expense, cut more broadly, or decide that the benefits of the spending are worth it.

So, is there anything related to money that you’re unhappy about? If so, is there anything that your best self wants to do about it?

Physical health. For example, let’s say you’ve put on some weight amid the pandemic. You might decide to diet, simply be more conscious about each bite, or to accept the weight gain, for now, hoping that COVID too will pass. Or build a walk into your daily routine, which won't burn many calories but get you away from the food source and improve your mood. 

So, is there anything about your physical health that makes you sad? If so, is there anything you want to do about it?

Mental health. For example, let’s say your sadness is infecting more and more of your daily life. Might you want to do things that have made you happier, for example, work, a friendship, a hobby? There’s no shortage of books, TV shows, and movies that might cheer you up.

So, is there something about your mental health that’s making you sad? If so, what, if anything do you want to do about it?

Recreation. For example, let’s say you love to travel but have had to put it on hold because of the pandemic. Would the risk/reward ratio be acceptable if you did one or more of the following: got vaccinated, dusted off that bicycle, took a car than airplane trip, or made it a day trip so you didn’t have to stay in a hotel, which might be COVID-riskier?

So, is there anything in your recreational life that’s making you sad? If so, is there anything you want to do about it?

The existential. For example, let’s say you loathe yourself, either globally or because of specific things you've done. Perhaps you'd want to inventory your strengths, review your past accomplishments and other things you’ve done that you’re even a little proud of, or treat the self-loathing as not all negative but as fuel to drive self-improvement.

So, is there anything existential that’s making you sad? If so, is there anything you want to do about it?

The takeaway

Alas, sadness is part of life but its extent isn’t immutable. Perhaps something in this post will help you identify a step toward replacing some sadness with happiness or, at least, contentment.

I read this aloud on YouTube.