“We’re overcome with deep sadness to be at this point.”
That was my friend’s response to the hard place she and her husband had found themselves.
Her beloved mother had been in and out of institutions because of mental illness and now, they had to make a hard, soul-tearing decision about her guardianship.
For years, they rallied, they loved, they emptied their savings for the best treatment centers, and they fought, trusted, and never gave up hope. And, now they felt like they were giving up her mom to an uncertain future.
Yet, she finished her text to me with this: “We are trusting. Father knows and He is near.”
No matter how bleak things seemed or how shattered she felt, she—they—knew that God was with them and somehow, no matter how it looked, He was involved, in charge, and in control.
But, just because you trust completely doesn’t mean you won’t feel completely sad sometimes.
Sadness is emotional pain that comes from loss, despair, grief, sorrow, or helplessness.
There is no way to fix sadness. You can’t go to a happy theme park and ride rides and eat cotton candy to make the sadness go away. You can’t talk yourself out of sadness any better than you can talk yourself out of hunger—you just are.
So what do you do when you are just plain sad? If you can’t fix it, how do you feel it and still keep yourself above water, taking one breath at a time?
Here are six ways to overcome sadness so it doesn’t overcome you.
For some of us, this is the most natural response to sadness. For others, crying feels like weakness or vulnerability.
But, crying is healthy. Jesus cried when He stood before His friend Lazarus’ tomb. He was sad and He wept.
When we cry, we don’t repress our sadness because repression can lead to depression—all that sorrow has to go somewhere!
Some studies suggest that when you cry, your body relaxes and releases endorphins, which are a natural “feel-good” chemical in your body. God designed you with tear ducts for a reason, so let your tears help you heal.
I know, I know, it’s the last thing on our minds when we just want to curl up on the couch and drown our sorrows in a gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream! But, God created our bodies to have, and need, an escape valve for the pressure of sadness.
Exercise is a great way to release it. Not only does exercise release endorphins, which make us feel better, it also makes us focus on something other than our sadness while we’re working out.
So, if sadness is your constant companion, take it on a run or to an aerobics class. Chances are your sadness won’t be able to keep up and it will leave you alone while you sweat it out in the gym.
No, you aren’t being a fake if you smile even when you’re sad, you’re being smart. Smiling even when you are sad can help you feel better.
Not only has research shown that smiling helps, the opposite is true too—frowning makes your sadness worse. It’s so interesting that our face can inform how we feel, isn’t it?
So, if you’re sad, try smiling and see how you feel.
4. Listen to Music
Listening to music can help soothe and relax you. And, it can also shift your focus onto something more beautiful and higher than you.
For a believer in Christ, listening to music introduces a whole other layer of healing—you can listen to Scripture and God’s Word can fill your heart and heal your wounds.
And, when you listen to praise music and tune in your heart to the lyrics, you will experience God’s presence for He “inhabits the praise of His people” (Psalm 22:3).
5. Hang Out with Others
It’s often a natural response when we’re sad to isolate ourselves. You know, stay home, watch sad movies, thumb through the photos that represent your loss, sit on the couch, and ruminate. But, you don’t need to do all that alone! You need a buddy to hang out with.
I read some research that showed that interacting with loved ones can boost your body’s production of oxytocin. Oxytocin, known as the love or cuddle hormone, fires up all those feel-good behaviors and emotions that come with relationships and bonding. Studies show that retreating from others makes depression worse.
So, if you’re sad, don’t wait until you feel better to hang out with a friend. Hang out with a friend and see how it can make you feel better.
6. Still Your Soul
Take time to pray and meditate. When sadness is pressing in, invite God into your sadness. Pray to Him and meditate on comforting Scriptures because He hears and He cares.
God’s presence and His Word can answer your sadness with hope and comfort.
Often when we’re sad, we’re meditating on our loss, our sorrow, and how we wish things were different. Turning that pondering into prayer and transferring meditation on sorrow to meditating on God’s Word can lift your spirit and relieve some of your sadness.
My friend, sadness is just part of our human experience, but God has a hope and a future for all of us, and it is a future full of joy.
When sadness hits, hit back with these six strategies, but ultimately, trust God with your sadness. He not only prescribes, He IS the best medicine!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Any other strategies you use to help overcome sadness? Share them with us!