I’d like to take a moment to have a chat with you about something that we would all love to know the answer to – how to stop feeling sad.
Wouldn’t that be something to behold?
To finally have a clear, defined answer that could stop sadness in its tracks and flick the switch that suddenly turns on the light among the darkness.
What we don’t often appreciate is that sadness, like all the many other emotions we possess, has its place. Emotions are not the enemy but the PROCESSING of our emotions, that’s a bit more temperamental.
Let me know if any of this sounds familiar to you…
We now live in a world where success and perfection rule all. Plastered all over our screens are the victories and joyous moments of everyone else and we sit there thinking, ‘Huh. Everyone is doing so great, what the hell am I doing with myself?!’
Scrolling through social media, watching reality TV and even on the News we have desirable lifestyles and beautiful people flashed at us from every angle.
Before we know it we’re sitting there wondering why we feel so sad.
To be clear, this is not going to be an article where the sole goal is to berate social media.
I’m not, and never want to be that person that screams about how ‘SOCIAL MEDIA IS CAUSING WORLD WIDE DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY. THE KIDS! OH, THE KIDS!!’
We have to take some responsibility for ourselves here.
The truth is, where social media is concerned I do perhaps lean toward the view that it’s not healthy for us. I worry about the effects it has on my own mental health despite the magnetic pull of the social media support communities that I have now removed myself from.
The physical response I was having after spending hours flicking through that bloody feed was always that of sweat, palpitations and a general feeling of MOODINESS.
And I thought, how do I stop this? How do I stop feeling sad and why does the online world seem to be a massive cause of this?
So although I am by no means indicating here that the pure SOURCE of your SADNESS is from social media alone (because, my GOD, that is so far from the truth. I’m sure) it’s certainly an aspect of everyone’s lives that might be worth addressing.
THE AGE OF COMPARISON
Whenever I’ve spoken about personal development or finding what brings purpose or meaning to our lives, I always like to mention how this is a luxury for the modern day human.
Think about it.
Our ancestors lived a life of fear. Wondering where their next meal was coming from or whether they’ll be prey to the next wolf or bear that walks around the corner. But they did not have the BURDEN of wanting to BETTER THEMSELVES.
I mean, quite frankly they had it easy. Right?
A successful day for our fathers of old would be to survive one day and be able to wake up the next. Each and every day where they were successful in this endeavour meant that they had achieved their goal.
Purpose discovered, to survive.
That’s not the world we live in now, thankfully. We are blessed to have little concrete buildings filled with food ready to buy on every corner – no hunting required.
Walk 10 miles into the local town? Heck no, let’s jump in the car.
We are surrounded by physical luxuries but perhaps the biggest luxury of them all is emotional freedom. With our brain power needing to focus less on survival we are able to attribute that focus to bettering ourselves.
We don’t simply have to survive anymore, oh no, now we can strive to live the best possible life we can. And herein lies the problem.
No-one is content with feeling average or mediocre. Despite the fact that it makes up the vast majority of the population.
Very few people are truly excellent at any one thing and likewise very few are truly very bad.
Unless it’s butterfly stroke. I can say with complete certainty that where there is a swimming competition and a butterfly stroke, I most certainly fit into the ‘truly very bad’ category. That’s right, I’m not average at all.
The problem that arises in this new age of self-awareness and the desire to be more, do more, earn more, love more and buy more…is that it’s really fucking hard not to compare ourselves to everyone else.
And THIS is where my problem with social media lies. Or perhaps, this is where we can address how social media perhaps is not the problem in itself but it certainly fuels some negative tendencies that us humans already possessed.
HOW TO STOP FEELING SAD IN THE AGE OF COMPARISON
The greatest source of anxiety relief came for me when I removed Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat from my phone.
I also added a neat little chrome extension to my PC which eradicates your Facebook Feed and replaces it with a lovely little quote for the day.
That’s right, there is absolutely nothing to scroll through.
I know what I’m like. A little bit sensitive, high achiever, perfectionist, chronic over-thinker and self-deprecator. All of these qualities I possessed long before social media came along. It’s in my blood, it’s who I am.
The problem was that knowing this did not help me with how to stop feeling sad. That was, until I recognized that if I am this way inclined then there are ways in which I need to help myself.
And that did not involve giving myself a ton of extra reasons to think lowly of myself.
So, I GOT RID and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Social media brought out qualities in me that sure, were already there but it amplified them ten-fold.
Suddenly I was noticing that my moods were erratic. I was feeling low, sick to my stomach more often and perhaps worst of all, I was becoming increasingly fixated on myself and blind to a lot of what was going on around me (In the REAL WORLD).
Social media is what you make of it but here’s the thing – a lot of the time we wind ourselves up about a half truth.
We want to know how to stop feeling sad over the things we’re being shown that make us feel inadequate without realizing that we have complete control over what we let ourselves SEE. And, how we PERCEIVE what we’re being shown.
With that said I have a few suggestions on how to stop feeling sad, especially over social media half-truths.
1. ‘COMPARE YOURSELF TO WHO YOU WERE YESTERDAY, NOT WHO SOMEONE ELSE IS TODAY’
I LOVE this quote. Jordan Peterson uses this as one of his rules for life in ‘12 Rules For Life: An Antidote For Chaos’.
We can place all of the blame we like on social media but ultimately it is how we choose to perceive what we are being shown that is the real problem.
Do I think the likes of these huge social media platforms take full advantage of our insecurities? Yes.
Do I think that they are master manipulators and know how to push all of our buttons? Yes.
Would I prefer there to be a higher emphasis on some of the more important things in life such as love, contentedness, simple living? Yes
Do I also think that there are huge BENEFITS to the online world which potentially out-weigh the negatives meaning that we should also take some accountability and raise our self-awareness surrounding it? Absolutely.
One of the reasons the ‘internet’ does so well at making us feel like shit is because hitting our PAIN points is often more effective than massaging our pleasure points.
It is through PAIN that they can get us to buy.
It is through pain that they can make us want what THEY have. Desire THEIR lives, aspire to be JUST LIKE THEM.
A lot of us feel insignificant, insecure and unworthy a lot of the time. A huge part of this comes from the way we compare ourselves with others.
Jordan Peterson excellently states, in effect, that in order to move forward and progress in life it benefits you to compare yourself to who you were yesterday. How far have you come, what have you achieved and what progress have you made?
Are you a better version of yourself today?
The reason being is that this is a reasonable comparison. This way you can effectively ‘measure’ progress and map out where you were and where you are going.
You simply cannot compare yourself to every successful, beautiful millionaire that shows up on your screen because guess what? You haven’t got a CLUE how they got there in the first place.
Everything about them is different to you so how are you supposed to compare the two?
One of the best ways to help yourself out of your sadness is to acknowledge that you are comparing yourself to the WRONG PEOPLE. You should only ever be comparing yourself to the you of yesterday.
2. REALIZE THAT YOU’RE ONLY GETTING HALF THE STORY
Daniel Gilbert writes extensively about how our ability as humans to think about the future is beneficial but can also be a hindrance.
In fact, in turns out that our memories are so unreliable that perhaps we can’t truly rely on them at all.
Among all of this he discusses how we have the tendency to only acknowledge exactly what is present in front of us.
Of course, this makes sense.
The problem with this is that what we’re NOT doing therefore is gaining an understanding of what is MISSING. The things that we can’t see, the magic that goes on in the wings or behind the curtains.
When I read this I had a proper light bulb moment.
It was so perfect for explaining why social media can have us feeling anxious, depressed and lonely – because we’re only being shown half the picture.
Regardless of celebrities, the rich elite and the uber fit people that are readily available on every feed known to man just imagine the friends and acquaintances that you are connected with on social media.
The vast majority of the time they are only ever going to show you the high points.
They are only going to show you when they got engaged, them looking fit in their gym wear, celebrations of a promotion or new house…you are most likely only ever going to see their successes.
They will only want you to see them in their BEST light.
How to stop feeling sad about this, you ask?
Be aware of what you’re MISSING. Heighten your senses and broaden your perceptions so that you can understand that you are not getting the whole story.
What you aren’t being shown is that the house they bought fell through, their partner cheats on them but they stay anyway, they go to the gym often because they’ve got a terrible body complex, they got the promotion but it’s at a company they hate and they haven’t seen any of their friends for ages and are feeling incredibly lonely.
The sooner you can acknowledge the half-truth that is social media then the sooner you can relieve yourself of anxiety and regain some self-esteem.
It is no-one’s DUTY to show you every aspect of themselves so that you don’t feel completely rubbish about not succeeding in the same way they are. No-one is obliged to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
So, it’s up to you to heighten your sense of awareness and change your perceptions surrounding what you’re being shown.
3. DISCOVER WHAT YOU CAN DEAL WITH AND WHAT YOU CAN’T
This comes back to simply helping yourself.
Social media, the internet and tons of information and vanity is here and it’s here to stay but it does not mean that you have to be victim to it if it makes you feel anxious or depressed.
How to stop feeling sad over what you’re being shown can be as simple as cutting yourself off from it.
No-one is shoving your phone in your face, tying you to a chair and pinning your eyes open while they shove your Instagram feed in your face.
The choice is yours and it’s tougher to stomach than many people would think.
It is truly addictive. A bad habit that has been learned and ingrained into a lot of us.
There is so much information and so many POSITIVES that you need to really weigh up what it is that you think you can handle and what you can’t.
For example, Facebook and Messenger was taken off my phone but I still have it on my PC.
With the Newsfeed Eradicator there isn’t any scrolling for me anymore but I can access things that are more specific and under my control such as the pages I manage and follow or the groups that I participate in.
Instagram is still on my phone but it has been filed into a folder which makes it not quite so easy to get to, just to help refrain me from clicking into it every time I unlock my screen. Likewise I am SUPER specific on who I follow and if someone turns out not to be what I thought they were then, ta ta.
Only you know what’s good for you.
It certainly takes courage to take yourself off these platforms entirely and this is potentially one of the biggest problems. People have such fear of missing out that they will endure the pain and suffering but let me tell you a quick story…
COMING OFF SOCIAL MEDIA COULD SHINE A LIGHT ON A FEW THINGS
I have a handful of friends who deleted all social media profiles a while ago now and a few things became very clear, very quickly.
Suddenly they knew who was important to them.
The people who loved them, wanted to see them and wanted to stay connected had no problem connecting with them through text, e-mail or whatsapp. An invitation that was sent out on Facebook did not mean that they were not invited to the event, they simply received a separate message.
However, those whose friendships were more superficial ended once the platforms were removed from their lives.
They are still well connected to the people who care about them but have rid themselves of those who had got caught up the idea of MORE. More friends, more connections, more people…but really it means nothing. These are just vanity numbers.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT THE SOURCE OF YOUR SADNESS
When it comes to feeling happy, content or joyful in life it would be unfair to place the sole blame for your sadness on social media alone.
If, like me, you struggle with the constant bombardment of other people’s lives for whatever reason then there are clear underlying issues that you might look to address.
Understand, if you felt confident in yourself then the confidence of others would have no negative effect on you.
If you believed in your talent then talent of others would not necessarily fill you with envy.
If you were content with what you have then the fact that others have MORE would mean very little to you.
And, if you compared yourself only to where you’ve come from and where you want to go then the achievements of others is something you could congratulate, not dwell on.
Address THESE issues and realize that they were most likely present long before social media but HELP YOURSELF by not allowing it to fuel your negative thoughts. Know what you can handle and alter your perceptions to see the reality (which you’re almost definitely not being shown).