“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” – Viktor E. Frankl
Over the past two weeks I have felt deflated and sad at times.
I’m not scared by this type of moments anymore.
I used to be for sure. Not anymore.
What I know now that I didn’t know then (and which makes the difference) is that feeling this way is normal. It’s part of being a perfectly imperfect human being.
The theme of sadness and loneliness, along with some sense of uncertainty, has been at the centre of many sessions and conversations lately.
Among the different issues and difficulties people reach out to me for, sadness and loneliness are the ones I always feel easier to emphatise with.
And they show up so often when there’s a difficult relationship with one’s body. Or when eating has become troublesome.
One reason why I feel more comfortable these days facing and talking about my own feelings of sadness or loneliness, is because, with time, I’ve come to a good understanding of what I can do to feel resourceful whenever they surface.
This way, sadness and loneliness still come to visit me, but they also go without staying with me for too long. Sometimes, they stay right for the time to teach me something I didn’t know about myself, or to help me readjust my compass, when there’s lack of direction in what I do or an imbalance of some sort.
In today’s mindful article I want to share with you 8 things I do when I feel sad and lonely, and those feelings stay with me for more than just a day or a moment in the day. I share them in the hopes that you’ll find something useful to support you during similar times.
1. I take long walks
I get out on my own and I take long long walks, without a specific destination or route in mind. I always make sure my partner knows the area where I’ll be walking, I take my phone with me and I avoid places that are too isolated.
But for the rest it’s pretty much free walking with no agenda whatsoever.
It helps me get out of my head and into my body, as I notice my legs getting some momentum, my shoes touching the different type of surfaces, the legs getting tired.
I try to focus on the physical sensations most of the time. And it’s also inevitable for nature to get into me in the form of colours, sounds, smells. I try and soak in the little joys of Mother Nature.
After a long walk, most of the times, I feel different, I’m in a calmer and less deflated state. I say ‘most’ because sometimes it happens that I feel the same, but that’s ok too. And it’s definitely not something that prevents me from trying another walk at a different time.
What’s one activity that takes you out of your head and into your body?
If you know what that is, keep it in mind when you are dealing with one of these moments.
If you don’t know what that is, reach out and let me help you find it.
2. I go back to my favourite quote
I remind myself of Vickor Frankl’s message from Man’s search for meaning:
“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
I keep this quote in a place where I can easily come back to it.
When I’m feeling sad and lonely, I know it’s tempting to just “try to think positive” and “suck it all up” without making the time to acknowledge what I’m actually feeling and allow it to exist.
It takes courage to stay with whatever is.
While tears flow and wet your face.
If I look back, moments of sadness and loneliness in particular, have always taught me something important, whenever I gave myself the chance to pause, do less and listen to the message they were carrying for me.
One thing I noticed is that the teaching always more or less comes down to answering this question:
Do I want to pretend everything is ok and keep things as they are?
OR do I want to feel the feels and do something about the situation that’s creating suffering?
If you have a favourite quote (or more than one) that reminds you of what matters to you and how you want to look at life when the going gets tough, make sure you write it down.
Put it somewhere you can easily come back to.
PRO TIP: If you are reading a book and there’s a line that really resonates with you make sure you underline it and bookmark the page, add a sticker and make it easier to go back to it.
It’s soothing, comforting to have something to lift you up, help you reframe the situation or simply re-ground yourself when the mind goes down that dark spiral of “everything just sucks”.
If you do have one soothing quote, I’d love to hear it! Make sure you share it with me.
3. I invite my emotions for a tea
So, I make a tea.
I sit down and check-in on how I’m feeling. If I feel like crying, then I let the tears flow.
I play some music, or listen to something soothing or inspirational.
Anne Scallan’s Bealtaine Blessings meditation this past week has been like a warm comforting hug for me.
Skellig album from David Gray on Spotify a great soundtrack for deep reflections and for lying in bed with no agenda, just to listen to my breath.
4. I reach out
I make sure I share my feelings with someone I trust.
My partner Dave is my favorite go to person for this. Along with a couple of trusted friends I have shared my feelings with in the past who always made me feel heard and seen. Some of you might be reading this one (hello you..and thank you).
I know reaching out takes courage sometimes. It can be hard to admit to someone else (but even harder to admit to ourselves sometimes) that we don’t have it all together, that we are not as strong as people think we are.
If I don’t feel like reaching out to someone, I know I can always reach out to my journal. I like writing pages about what’s going on inside and outside. I write in Italian, my mother tongue. It makes me feel heard, because I write as if I’m trying to explain how I feel to someone else and in the language that allows me to express the tiniest nuances of what I’m feeling.
Who can you reach out to? Who has been a good listening ear in the past? How can you allow yourself to reach out and feel comfortable about it?
If you feel like there’s no one you know you can reach out to right now…where else could you find support?
5. I use beauty to shelter from the storm
When I feel particularly low, I intentionally look for something beautiful to immerse myself in.
The most common way I do it is by visiting a gallery, a museum, a quiet garden, a library.
Years ago (when I was living in Dublin) when I had a bad day and I was off work, I used to take refuge at the Chester Beatty library or the roses’ garden in the Iveagh Gardens.
Those places always had the power to lift up my spirits. I believe it’s because of that sense of calm and containment that they were able to provide for my feelings.
I also rarely feel lonely in these places because they give me a sense of connection to the whole.
Nature, colours, the stillness of a painting and the gentleness of a flower have the power to soften the pain and to bring me back to the basics, to what matters to me: simplicity, kidness, slow flow, beauty.
Is there a place, an experience where you can find shelter from the storm? Which gives you a sense of connectedness?
Is it available to you right now? If not, can you explore new places and situations to help find out a new one?
6. I cut down on the time spent on socials
I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me on this.
When you are feeling sad and lonely, social media like Facebook and Instagram, can easily amplify those feelings. They can send you down that rabbit hole of comparisonitis.
Just like you, I can be tempted to check on whatever anyone else’s is doing on a sunny weekend when all I might feel like doing is staying in.
It’s easy to feel even lonelier when comparing yourself to someone else’s social life, size of the family, fun activities, celebrations, holiday’s adventures.
At the same time it’s easy to forget the fact that socials rarely show the full picture of someone’s life and are often a display of carefully selected memories and pictures. We all love to share our ‘best happy side’ in there.
I’ve also found that comparing myself at that level decreases my willingness to reach out.
For all these reasons, I stay away as much as possible from social media when sadness and loneliness arise.
If it’s true that you can find something inspirational to pick yourself up in there, it’s also true that you might have to scroll down for a while and be exposed to triggering content bringing you down as you look for something inspirational.
For me, it’s just not worth it! I prefer relying on my saved quotes, books and the other sources of inspiration I shared above, which sit away from a social media app.
7. I write something that can help another soul
I like connecting with people (just like I’m doing now with you) through offering in writing what I know and what I learned along my journey, in the hopes that it might be helpful for someone else.
When I’m feeling low, writing something useful, kind or inspirational for someone else contributes to me feeling connected to someone else somehow. Loneliness and sadness soften and lose their strength.
This can come in the form of sending kind and nice notes to someone, celebrate their accomplishments, tell them I miss them or writing a post on Instagram reaching a larger group of people, or this newsletter.
It’s a way to release kindness and care out in the world, which always comes around one way or another. It’s a beatiful way to feel connected at times you don’t feel like the world is paying atttention to you. A reminder that we are all pretty much very connected, whether we feel it or not.
Would doing something helpful or kind for someone else help you soften the sadness and loneliness you feel right now?
8. I cook something yummy, from scratch
Cooking is my n.1 way to express my creative part. It always brings back my inner child. It remindes me that my hands and my mind can work together to create something beautiful…and tasty. Like this chocolate pie I made last weekend!
Chopping, mixing, and blending, watching a cake rise or something get crunchy.
All these bring me to a nice state of flow where again I can get out of my head and into my body.
I know for sure that for many flow and relaxation don’t happen in the kitchen, but they can happen while painting, drawing, DIYing, knitting, having a date out at the beach with your kids. Some many options!
Find what brings you into a state of flow, where you feel like in a good-feeling state of trance and do more of that, especially when you’re feeling low. Without forcing yourself. Gently.
Remembering that sometimes flow comes in the form of allowing ourselves to take a much needed break and just rest.
There you have it, eight things that help me move through sadness and loneliness and not stay stuck with them for too long.
I hope you find them useful and I would love to hear from you what you do to keep going during difficult times like these.
Always with kindness,