Author: August Clarke
“You’ll have bad times but that will always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Good Will Hunting
Do you ever feel sad and not really know why? Or maybe you know the cause, but you feel that you are unusually upset about it? That’s okay. It happens sometimes. We all have bad days and good days and it’s not always obvious why some are better than others.
If you are feeling down on yourself and you don’t really know what to do, try not to despair. Instead, take a deep breath, make yourself a cup of tea, and then try to reflect and refocus. The process can be broken down into four steps.
STEP ONE: Write Down the Facts
When you are upset about something, it’s easy to jump to all sorts of conclusions that really aren’t going to do anything except make you feel worse about yourself. For example, I was texting someone I was just starting to get to know the other week, and somehow the conversation took an awkward turn I really wasn’t expecting and I was absolutely convinced that I had totally flubbed the conversation and my new friend would think I was weird. As the friendship was new, the whole encounter made me feel self-conscious. I was worried that I had ruined everything and he wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore.
At first, I was feeling pretty down about this. But I forced myself to take a step back and look at the situation from a new angle. I decided to focus on the facts. For instance, I knew that my friend was not judgemental and that we always got along really well in person. I remembered that texting can often lead to miscommunication and that this particular person had never been hung up on anything that had happened over text before.
After thinking more about the situation in a logical way, I began to relax. Sure enough, the next time I saw my friend, there was no awkwardness at all. It’s easy to blow small things out of proportion, especially when you are having a bad day, to begin with. Next time you catch yourself freaking out over something and making drastic assumptions about the situation, try to step away from the situation and focus on what you know. Write down the facts, if you have to. You can also do this when you are feeling sad or insecure about nothing in particular. For example, you could write down all the things you like about yourself, or your current life situation.
STEP TWO: Think about what you have to look forward to
Writing down the facts about the situation is a great place to start making yourself feel better, but it’s probably not a perfect solution to your problem. One thing that I like to do when I’m sad is thinking about all the things I have to look forward to. For example, going to lunch with your friend, or your brother’s birthday the next week, or maybe your next long weekend! It’s such a simple thing to do, but focusing on all the things coming up for you to be happy about is actually a great way to lift your mood and remind you of all the good times ahead, however small they may seem.
It’s such a simple thing to do, but focusing on all the things coming up for you to be happy about is actually a great way to lift your mood and remind you of all the good times ahead, however small they may seem.”
STEP THREE: Reflection
It’s not good to lock up your feelings and let them sit there. If you don’t feel like ranting to anyone about what you’re going through (maybe your friends are the source of your angst) there are still other ways to release your emotions. I have some artistic friends who like to express themselves through poetry or painting. Another good way to reflect is through journaling, or even by writing a pretend letter to someone – either someone you are frustrated with, or someone that you would like to talk to about the situation.
One of my personal favorite things to do is to make a playlist! I find that sorting through all the music on my phone and picking out the songs that I relate to most really helps me relax and silently process everything I’m going through.
STEP FOUR: Put It Away
Just like it’s not good to ignore your feelings, it’s also not good to dwell on things that are upsetting you for too long. Once you’ve reflected on the situation and there is really nothing more than you can do about it (at least in that moment), no good will come from running it through your head over and over again. Especially if you don’t know the cause of your sadness.
Instead, try to pick an activity that will at least temporarily lift your spirits or refocus your attention to something more positive. For instance, watching a comedy, hanging out with someone you care about (like your siblings or a bubbly friend) or making a trip to the gym. As I said, I enjoy making playlists, so I always make sure to have a “feel-good” soundtrack to fall back on when I need a pick-me-up.
Redirecting your attention to something productive can go a long way in lifting your mood.
We’ve all heard it before but, at the end of the day, it is most important to remember that “this too shall pass.” Cliché or not, it’s true. Odds are, what’s upsetting you two years or two months from now won’t be the same thing making you sad now. You will have more bad days, but more good ones, too. Life carries on, and the things that feel big now won’t seem that way forever.