Sadness is an emotion we all want to get rid of the moment we feel it. What we don’t seem to understand is that, just as fear gives us the adrenaline to escape from danger, or as anger pushes us to fight against something we don’t like or disagree with, sadness may have its own mission.

You are surely familiar with “Inside Out”, the latest Pixar success, which just awarded an Oscar. Just to recap: the story narrates the early life of a girl named Riley as she moves across the country with her parents, leaving her house and school friends behind. It is a chronicle of a girl’s emotions – which are personified as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – and how they affect her decisions and actions during a period of changes. Surprisingly, Sadness plays a big role at the end of the movie, when Joy can no longer make Riley react and solve her situation.

That particular episode left us thinking on how we treat our emotions and the positive or negative value we assign to them. Indeed all of us would like to avoid suffering, but sometimes it seems that sadness could be the first step to happiness.

Sadness could be the first step to happiness. Share on X

There is a number of scientific research that underscores some possible benefits of sadness. Studies suggest that sadness activates our body so we can react after a loss. According to Joseph Forgas, a psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, “mild sadness seems to function as an alarm signal, indicating that the current situation is new, unfamiliar and challenging.” As we said before, nobody wants to experience sadness, it makes us uncomfortable, and because we feel uncomfortable we will be motivated to do something and change our situation. It seems that people who feel happy are often less motivated to act than those who feel sad, who will have reasons to do things prone to cheer them up and change that particular thing they feel uncomfortable with.

sadness_insideoutThere is also the fact that nobody wants to be seen sad or show their worst moments. Think about Facebook – people tend to show what a nice family they have, how lovable and perfect their partners are, the amazing suntan they got in their latest holidays in the beach, how much fun they have in their lives, how fashionable their meals are (so much that their dishes deserve a photo)… No one joins Facebook to be sad and lonely. But a new study argues that that’s exactly how it makes us feel.

But we need to understand that it’s OK to be sad. Why? Well, if you think about it, it is exactly when we are feeling down when we tend to look inside and revise certain aspects of our life. So in a way, going through sadness can help us grow into better and wiser adults. If experienced in a healthy way, sadness can serve to remind us what matters to us.

You have to experience sadness to know happiness. Share on X

Psychologists point out that feeling blue can make us more compassionate, tender and empathetic towards others, especially when our pain is over and someone else is now suffering. Once the suffering is gone, having experienced it can help us be more grateful for what we have and appreciate more what we have lost.

As any other emotion, sadness is meant to be felt; it’s healthy to do it. Repressing our suffering typically leads to greater pain. “‘Inside out’ underscores the fact that sadness is not only an acceptable, but also a necessary part of the process of adjusting. It is through sadness, or suffering, that we develop compassion and empathy” says Dr. Nina Asher.

Sadness is therefore necessary to face loss; don’t be ashamed of it: embrace it, let it unfold, learn from the experience and keep growing.

Sadness has its own mission; don’t be ashamed of it: embrace it, let it unfold, and keep growing. Share on X