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The word sadness comes from the Latin word ‘depressio’ where its meaning is translated as “it
is sunk”. From this perspective, it sounds logical to ask: what is sunk? It can be said that the
opposite of sadness is joy, so sadness is a state in which joy is “sunken”. On a scientific level, this
definition makes a lot of sense. One of the findings in neuroscience about happiness is that
happiness generally occurs when a neurotransmitter called Serotonin is produced in high
amounts. This is generated in the brain every time we carry out a pleasant activity in the
present moment, for example, going for a walk, eating our favorite ice cream, reading a book,
being with people we love, etc. Be careful, it only occurs when we do something in the present,
if we are making plans for the future and we feel “happy” for those plans, this does NOT
produce serotonin but dopamine; another of the commonly called chemicals of happiness. It is
not surprising then to note that some studies have found that people with high levels of sadness
have low levels of serotonin. Then it is as if the sadness came as a consequence of “sunk”
It should be noted that, of course, sadness is one of the basic emotions that we experience as
human beings at times in our lives and it is completely normal, especially if we are facing
situations of loss, for example: loss of work, of a loved one, of a couple etc. The difficulty occurs
when sadness becomes constant for no apparent reason.
As previously mentioned, serotonin is produced when we are in total connection with the
present. Similarly, from a Buddhist perspective it is held that happiness is achieved when we are
connected with the present moment or in full attention (mindfulness). Curiously, on a
psychological level, sadness generally occurs because we are focused either on the past or on
the future, ruminating on what we had or were and now no longer, or on what we would like to
have or be and we do not have it. Constant discontent is experienced because we think that
things just “should be” different. If we stop thinking for a second what this statement implies,
we will realize that behind it there is an ego: We want things to be different, in other words, we
want our situation to turn out the way we want… because what I want is what I should have,
and things should be given as I wish”. It is in this way that a complete disconnection occurs
between what is and what we BELIEVE “should be”, basically we focus on denying the present
and focusing on a non-existent ideal. This is why it is only when we accept situations as they are
that we connect with the present. Of course this does not mean that we do not fight to change
our current situation or that we do not wish for a change, on the contrary, change is the
constant of life. We must fight to change the situation that we want to improve, but if it does
not happen just the way I want it to, that is fine and I am grateful! And in the same way, if things
did not happen the way I think they should have happened, that is fine and I am grateful! This is
what in psychology is known as radical acceptance.
It is important to mention that at a scientific level it has been shown each emotion has a
function. In particular, sadness gives us a clear signal when our needs are not being met or
when we find ourselves disconnected with our own essence. This is why every emotion
considered “negative” is actually a way in which our body shows us that there is something to
change… something to transform. Likewise, from the Sufi perspective, suffering is a vehicle for
our spiritual growth since it leads us directly towards divine love. And how does this happen?
The best way to understand it is through our own experience and for this I will use the following
example: Think for a moment about some deeply rooted value or belief that you have,
something that you know deep down that you “would never do to someone”, it can be
something like “I would never be unfaithful to someone”, or “I would never hit my children”,
etc. If you reflect on it, you will surely realize what you “would never do to someone” you carry
it with you because someone else did it to you before. You received the consequences of that
act, suffered the pain and damage that it caused, that is why you would not do it… because you
know the pain that it causes. In the same way, when you meet another person who suffered
something similar to what you suffered, you immediately feel that compassion and love for that
person, that only happens because you know very well the pain that the other person feels
since you experienced it. This is how pain very effectively leads us to true love. When we learn
to transform our painful experiences into love and compassion for others and ourselves, that is
when we connect with divine love.
To summarize, we can heal sadness when:
- We connect with the present moment through activities that fill us with peace and joy.
- We carry a practice of full attention (mindfulness).
- We work on radical acceptance and change the “should be” to “it’s okay; thank you”.
- We connect with our own pain to not cause it to anyone else.
- We transform our sadness into compassion and love towards others who are also
suffering in order to connect with divine love.
Psychologist, Master in Applied Neuroscience and Master in Positive Psychology. Meditation and Reiki Master. My passion is to integrate science and spirituality in order to cultivate together a deeper world that nourishes the heart instead of our automated responses; one that channels fear and pain into deep freedom, joy and unconditional love. With such a dream in mind I founded Happiher, where through trainings, conferences, coaching, meditations and support circles we co-create such a reality.