The other night I felt overcome by sadness as I reflected upon all the suffering of this world.
In many ways, I have a perfect life. Nevertheless, a part of me will always be sad as long as others suffer.
Life is bittersweet. And that’s okay with me. As long as suffering persists, happiness without sadness seems insensitive.
I sat with the feelings of sadness, gazing at the dark night sky. I didn’t try to push them away. Quite the contrary, I felt empowered by them.
Usually, we want to move away from sadness as quickly as possible.
Often, we’re encouraged to divert ourselves from sad feelings by engaging in physical activity, imagining pleasant and relaxing experiences, or looking for humor in a situation that makes us sad. Some people, who are naturally empathetic, have decided to protect themselves from sadness and other challenging emotions by not watching the news. I can understand.
But I say, let your heart be broken into a million pieces. You will be all the better for it if you allow it to open your heart. Here’s why.
3 Ways Sadness Can Be A Gateway to Genuine Happiness
Sadness is not always as bad as it’s made out to be. In fact, sadness can be the start of your journey directly to the heart of true happiness. Here are 3 ways that sadness can help you discover a more lasting, genuine sense of happiness.
1. Let Sadness Crack Open Your Idea of Reality
There’s not a single person in this world that can escape from suffering. Suffering is the fundamental characteristic of the way we lead our lives—full of attachment and aversion. This is precisely what brings unhappiness our way.
I like this. I don’t like that. I want this. I don’t want that.
There may be transitory moments of happiness when things go our way, we have an enjoyable sensory experience, or acquire an entrancing new possession. But temporal happiness such as this does not last long. Before you know it, dissatisfaction arises, and you’re on to wanting the next thing, person, or experience.
All the tension of striving for what we want and rejecting everything else just brings more complications and more distress. We’re rarely satisfied for more than a few moments at a time.
How about trying this – when sadness pops up, instead of running away, let her wake you up. Sadness has the power to introduce a crack in our limited and limiting version of reality. Maybe life isn’t all about wanting, getting, accomplishing, and possessing. Maybe there is another way.
And even if you know this already, sadness can sing you an even deeper song.
A moment of sadness can be profound, indeed. You might see clearly for the very first time. Or you might get fantastically woken up once again. Either way, let sadness spark your life with new meaning and purpose.
2. Let Your Heart Break Into a Million Pieces
When sadness breaks open our heart, we have the opportunity to become fully human.
By having the courage to touch our own pain and suffering, we naturally feel empathy for the pain and suffering of others. Suddenly we see: your suffering and my suffering are the same. Suffering, as well as the wish to avoid it, are one common thread that unites all of humanity.
From recognizing this simple truth, one we tend to neglect in day-to-day life, a profound feeling of interconnectedness can arise and bring about an unspeakable joy. It can ignite the wish to bring happiness to others and to do all you can to eliminate their suffering too. Now, that is living for a much higher purpose, one that leads to a more sustaining joy.
3. Nothing Ever Stays the Same for Even a Moment
Sadness comes when things change – a relationship ends, someone dies, we’re fired from a job, illness descends, a friend is physically hurt, a disaster happens. Sadness introduces us to impermanence and so can help us learn to let go.
Change is the only constant in life. Until we learn to accept change gracefully, we’ll always suffer. There’s a blessing in embracing the beauty of impermanence. Through doing so, we can come to value every precious moment of this life and live in a far saner and more fulfilling way.
A Healthy Approach to Sadness
Since no one is immune to sadness, why not use it to spark more meaning and purpose in your life. That is what will bring you a more genuine and lasting happiness.
I’m not suggesting that anyone get stuck on sadness – that could be depression or unending grief. Repressed grief leads to contraction and despondency. Instead, the willingness to acknowledge, express, and resolve grief, over a natural course of time, leads to greater health and happiness.
At the same time, we don’t need to push sadness away as soon as it pays a visit. Sadness can be the doorway to profound understanding. I feel empowered by sadness because it helps me see what really matters in life: kindness, love, and compassion.
How do you look at sadness in your life? Has sadness every brought more meaning or happiness into your life?