How to be sad

I am happy right now but sometimes I get sad. This is something you don’t often hear people talk about, which seems silly, because everyone gets sad sometimes, right?

I like hearing people acknowledge that sadness or that special brand of sadness, melancholy, is a normal part of life and should be expected.


Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when we are open to the fact that life is inherently difficult and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. It’s not a disorder that needs to be cured.


This quote is from In Praise of Melancholy, an article in The Philosopher’s Mail. Read the full article for a satisfyingly depressing reality check.

I tend to think of melancholy as a glamorous downer, the kind you choose to wallow in for a while. It’s a transient sadness that should be indulged for short periods of time but not be allowed to overtake you.

How much melancholy is too much?

Melancholy, like any emotion you nurture will want to stay and basque in the warmth you provide, so you need to be clear with yourself about how long it will be a welcome guest in your house. Five days is my personal limit. Longer than that and Melancholy loses its sexy edge and starts to resemble depression. To make sure it doesn’t overstay, I note its arrival date and then make the most of it. This usually involves playing lots of songs from my favourite band, the National, who are appropriately happy sad.  As the departure date looms I try to force myself to do something that will jolt my endorphins back into gear, like a dance class or some other high energy sport. I say force, because I would most likely have stopped exercising during my melancholy period and will not be bouncing out the door for a top up. Some days I’ll want to let my friend stay a bit longer and wont make it out the door at all, which is why the other thing you should always do when Melancholy arrives is tell someone that you have a visitor. When you are asked how you are feeling you should say ‘Melancholy right now, but ask me again in five days.’

How do you best be sad?

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6 thoughts on “How to be sad

  1. Pingback: Confirmation that Sadness is Beautiful | GrowingOnUp

  2. I adore the National– They have been my favorite for several years. I always think about how the type of music people enjoy relates to their personalities. As an example, I have friends who are among the happiest, most positive people in the world and have never understood this type of music that includes a bit of darkness. They are only interested in upbeat, happy pop or electronic music. But you are absolutely right. It’s perfectly fine to be sad from time to time and I wish it were more acceptable for everyone to acknowledge feeling this way. And at the same time, it’s a very, very bad idea to get too comfortable dwelling in this line of thinking.

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  3. I think that in order to feel pure joy (do you really know what that feels like? Not just happiness but pure unrestricting joy… Like a dog when it sees it’s owner or when an unnatural amount of serotonin gets released)

    anyway… In order to feel joy and happiness and all of that you need to feel sadness, melancholy, frustration etc.

    This does however contradict the law of attraction at times but I still think it’s beneficial. Xoxo

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    • Jess, you were one step ahead of Butters in the next post! While the concept of having to experience the one to appreciate the other makes sense to me I do wonder if we wouldn’t appreciate white without black, sun without rain…I guess we’ll never know.

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