Have you ever felt persistent sadness and then felt even more discouraged because you didn’t know why?
It can be hard to pinpoint the reason why you’re feeling sad when it overwhelms you. It’s not as simple as thinking yourself into happiness, and harshly judging yourself for how you’re feeling can make matters worse. Here are five reasons why you could be feeling down to guide you when you’re at a loss:
Lack of Vitamin D: Have you ever had someone tell you to go out and take a walk in the sunshine when you’re in an off mood? The reason for this tried and true remedy comes down to vitamin D, which has been aptly named the “sunshine” vitamin. A Cambridge study in 2013 found that people with less vitamin D levels were more likely to experience depression. But, not to worry, because if you’ve gone to the doctor and been told that your vitamin D levels are low, you’re in good company: 42 percent of the population has sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D. And according to Healthline, just 10 to 30 minutes of sunshine is good enough.
You can also boost your vitamin D levels by eating different types of fish like salmon or mackerel, among other animal products. If you’d rather not get your Vitamin D from an animal, you can also get it from mushrooms, fortified plant-based milk and cereals or a supplement.
Stress piling up: Another reason you might be feeling persistent sadness is because of stress that keeps mounting. In his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky writes that the human response system is better suited to deal with short-term stressors rather than long-term ones. For example, a caveman or cavewoman would fight a vicious animal, but then promptly life and return to a relaxed state.
While in contemporary times we don’t have to worry about fighting a bear, the demands of our careers, finances or relationship problems can be draining. Being stressed out and having many demands without giving your mind a rest can make you feel like everything in your life is moving too fast. The subsequent lack of control can be jarring. A pressure cooker of stress can inadvertently bring about sadness.
A lack of communicating your needs: Sadness sometimes can have a way of rendering a person silent — making you unable to put into words how you’re feeling. This repression can be result of not speaking up, like in instances of expecting others to read our minds or anticipating our needs. Repression like this can be harmful if the need for compassion and empathy from others, for example, aren’t being fulfilled.
A lack of communicating needs can negatively affect other areas of our lives, too, like our romantic relationships and work (which can cause you to be passed over for a promotion, for example.)
Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem, or having a low opinion of yourself, has also been shown to be a contributing factor to sadness that won’t seem to go away.
This reason behind sadness can be hard to unpack because it’s a vicious cycle: If you’re not happy with who you are and don’t like yourself, it’s more likely to cause depression, and then depression itself can make you not like who you are. The vulnerability model, one approach to explain this cycle, shows that when your self-esteem is low, you’re more likely to think that negative experiences in your life are a result of a character flaw. Another approach is the scar model, which would say that the depression in the equation comes first — or a negative thing will happen to you because you are depressed.
You don’t have a solid support system around you: There’s some truth to the age-old adage from a Beatles’ song: I get by with a little help from my friends. But meaningful social connections can also come in the form of interaction with community members or people in a church group. Mood-boosting social interactions might include having a chat with a friend on the phone, catching up or helping a friend by offering advice for something he or she is going through. Connecting with people when you’re down can reduce stress and increase your motivation.
And remember, if forging meaningful connections is difficult for you, a therapist is always a good person with whom you can trust and confide in.
Are there different ways you identify why you’re feeling sad?
10 Scientific Reasons You’re Feeling Depressed. (2014, November 12). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201411/10-scientific-reasons-you-re-feeling-depressed
Browne, S. (2020, June 2). Why Am I So Sad? 9 Possible Causes You Shouldn’t Ignore. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/851910/why-am-i-so-sad
How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health? (2017, June 4). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-vitamin-d-to-take
Is Low Self-Esteem Making You Vulnerable to Depression? (2013, February 26). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201302/is-low-self-esteem-making-you-vulnerable-depression
Social Support Is Imperative for Health and Well-Being. (2020, April 14). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/social-support-for-psychological-health-4119970
Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason? (n.d.). Lifehack.Org. https://www.lifehack.org/832119/why-do-i-feel-depressed