Have you been feeling blue lately?
This bout of sadness is referred to in many different phrases: having a heavy heart, a lump in your throat, feeling down in the dumps, having a water bucket on your head, looking like a wet weekend, etc.
Sometimes it stems from a situation or moment we can pinpoint in our lives, and other times feeling blue doesn’t seem to have a reason for appearing at all.
If you have the blues, you may feel like you want to be alone. You may be sad or closed off or even extra emotional during this time.
To feel better from the blues, we must first understand what they are.
So, where does the initial phrase come from? Why do we call it feeling blue? Why not feeling purple? Or gray?
Colors are often associated with emotions or situations.
For example, the phrase “She was green with envy” means that person was experiencing some jealousy. Red can be related to anger, white to innocence or purity, and black to danger or death.
The blues are often associated with sadness or any low mood. Unless you are a pluviophile, gloomy and rainy days with a blue tinge to them can be saddening and melancholic.
In Greek mythology, whenever Zeus was sad, he would make blue rain droplets fall from the sky. Thus, the color has continued to be associated with these feelings.
Is it normal to feel blue?
It is absolutely normal to feel blue.
We are human, and humans go through a range of emotions as they experience everyday life. Although it may not be fun to deal with the blues, or general moments of sadness and bad feelings, it’s a normal reaction.
It’s a reminder that your body is functioning properly in your environment. Letting things affect us or make us sad are common signs of weakness, but only because of how society has framed that emotion.
Occasionally sadness is not only normal but sometimes necessary.
Causes of feeling blue
Brief periods of sadness, or “feeling blue,” can stem from unfortunate situations we experience in life.
If you’ve recently lost someone close to you, broken up with your partner, or got bad news on a test or an opportunity you were excited about, it’s normal to go through a period of sadness or doubt.
However, when that sadness sticks around or it causes physical changes in the body, it can signify something more serious.
Feeling blue vs. being depressed
Feeling blue is usually fleeting. When we are dealing with issues in our lives, we can use coping mechanisms or distractions to deal with what we are feeling.
Depression can also arise from dealing with significant events. Clinical depression may also stem from a series of genetic factors or chemical imbalances in the brain that aren’t as easy to pinpoint.
If you are feeling blue, it can usually be pinpointed to one event. You may feel sadness or general melancholy, but not to the point where it affects your life long term. Feeling low or not like yourself are common symptoms of the blues.
Depression affects your physical and mental health condition. Those who struggle with depression often say it saps their appetite, which affects their weight. It can also trigger symptoms of anxiety and leave a person feeling unable to concentrate, worried, or guilty.
The duration of each of these periods of sadness is important to consider when making the distinction.
Feeling blue is usually cleared up with time or when we do something that is enjoyable. A physical activity such as exercising during a period of sadness releases happy hormones that drive away the blues.
Depression, however, sticks around. It follows those who experience it, affecting every facet of their life from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed.
Not everyone can bounce back easily from the blues. Sometimes, the feelings of inadequacy and sadness, perhaps even helplessness, can happen from month to month and possibly even years.
What to do when you are feeling blue
Here are a few tips that could help you the next time you are experiencing the blues.
1. Make a list of positives
Rather than continuing to sit with our melancholic thoughts, it can be beneficial to our mental health to write down some things we are grateful for. Think of any positives you have in your life currently and make a list as long as you can keep coming up with items.
When you look back at the list, you will somehow realize that the list of things to be grateful and happy about completely outweighs the list of reasons for the blues.
Additionally, there’s a saying that “behind every setback is a lesson.” When you reframe your thinking this way, the difference can be extremely beneficial.
2. Take a hot bath or shower
It can be easy to overlook our hygiene or self-care routine when we are feeling down. However, a shower is a great way to lift your spirits.
Water has been known to wash away more than the grime that may have built up on your skin throughout the day. It can be a great way to release and relax after feeling the blues.
Use your favorite shampoo or body wash and spend time enjoying the feel of the water washing your cares away.
Often, the shower is where we do our most thinking, but it can be a great place to zone out, as well. A nice distraction from our blues can be more helpful than we think.
3. Read a positive book
Reading is another form of self-care.
When we read, we usually transport our train of thought to what is happening in the book.
If it’s a romance, we are rooting for the characters to get together. If it’s a humorous book with a quirky main character, we are turning the pages, wondering what they will get themselves into next.
It doesn’t have to be a self-help book that tells you how to get over your sadness. It can simply be something that you enjoy reading.
Next time you are feeling blue, search for a book that you haven’t gotten a chance to dig into yet and try to let yourself get lost within the pages.
4. Do an act of kindness
Acts of kindness doesn’t need to be grandiose. When we do something for others, even if it is small, we show our kindness and can support and sometimes forget about our own feelings for a moment.
Maybe a friend needs help with a project they’ve been working on. Offering a lending hand can distract us from the blue feeling.
You can even try complimenting your friend or a stranger or doing something nice, such as paying it forward in the drive-thru line.
When we see that we’ve made another person happy, it can make us start to feel better about ourselves, as well.
When to seek professional help
If your blues stick around for an extended period of time and nothing that you do seems to shake them, it may be a case of something more serious, such as depression.
This is especially important if you have physical symptoms that your sadness causes, such as insomnia, weight loss, fatigue, etc. Professional treatment for depression can be useful for ridding ourselves of permanent blue symptoms.
Speak to a counselor or therapist about your feelings, so they can decide the right treatment or support option for you. They can help you find healthy coping mechanisms that will allow you to be free from the blues and have lasting mental and physical health.
The Bottom Line
If you go through periods of feeling blue, you are not alone, everyone experiences symptoms of the blues. They can happen after disappointing news, a missed opportunity, or a breakup.
To combat your sadness, you first need to understand its cause. Then, you can take action.
Search for activities that make you feel better about yourself. It’s important not to isolate yourself when we are feeling down, a fun event or just talking with a friend can help you get over your symptoms.
Additionally, it’s important to recognize the difference between temporary sadness and depression. While they have similar emotional qualities, sadness typically disappears when we do something fun. Depression, however, lingers no matter the situation we are in.
Seek the support of a mental health professional if you think your sadness is more than you can handle, predisposed to self harm, or if you start having suicidal thoughts. You may have an undiagnosed clinical depression which needs various interventions to help you live a full, happy, and healthy life you deserve.