Adding a narrative to past experiences is a powerful mindfulness practice that can help with issues currently manifesting in your life.
Paying attention to your present struggles by identifying how they are preventing you from progressing is often where we stop. However, going the extra step by recalling past moments of sadness—especially experiences that never had words to complement their impact—could have a long lasting positive result for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
You might have been too young at the time to put it into words. Maybe you were distracted, or surrounded by people who you felt were not interested in the story. So you kept it suppressed.
Research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait.
- Stress reduction
- Boosts to working memory
- Less emotional reactivity
- More cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
Advice for My Younger Self
Based on inspiration from “A Letter To My Teenage Self” by Solange Knowles, here is the advice I would give to my younger self about sad times that currently impact me.
Friends Come and Go, But They Matter Nonetheless
- Past sadness: Losing my best friend to illness in the 2nd grade, in 3rd grade seeing another friend’s father beat her mother unconscious while we sat frozen with fear, watching a friend get murdered on the street on their bike shortly after, then moving to a new neighborhood and losing all my friends to start over with kids who were not like me. This sadness framed my childhood exposure to friendships.
- Present Challenge: Keeping the sad feelings bottled up and not letting people too close because of the fear of loss has made it tough to form close friendships.
- Advice: Expressing feelings with more words and connections helps other people understand that the frown on your face is actually a mask for fear. Let them in and let them go when it’s time. Fear is not necessary—nothing is ever truly lost, just experiences gained.
Don’t Let Corporate America Dull Your Shine
- Past sadness: Being disappointed by people is a hard lesson. No matter how many times it shows up, it always makes me feel like I’m alone on a island surrounded by heartless sharks.
- Present Challenge: I often take the feedback and opinions of leaders and co-workers very personal without taking into consideration their bias due to self-motivation or their personal experiences.
- Advice: Choose the direction you feel is right and trust in yourself. Your intuition will lead you towards the best place for you. When you become more authentic and try less to impress or satisfy leadership/colleagues, you’ll be surprised by how successful you’ll become. Make people feel good about working with you and you’ll go further than ever imagined.
Do Everything That Makes Your Heart Sing
- Past sadness: Not writing because I was too focused on my career, or on the other side of things, not doing well at work because I was too focused on finishing crochet projects. Both experiences made me feel unfulfilled as a person.
- Present Challenge: I ignore or suppress my desire to do things that I enjoy because they do not fit into my family or peer’s expectations of me.
- Advice: You are a writer, crocheter and knitter, farmer and a businesswoman. There might be more skills hidden in there that will show up over time. Neglecting one will make you feel like something is missing. It is possible to do all. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Those who love you will support you. You won’t have time to notice the ones who don’t, so keep going. Keep jumping into things that make your heart sing because once you open up, that energy multiples and continues to manifest more of the things that make you happy.
In the movie Inside Out, star-shaped Joy gets more screen time. But when the emotions are in danger of getting lost in the endless corridors of long-term memory, it is Sadness, downcast and shaped like a blue teardrop, who emerges as an unlikely heroine.
Take a moment and think about a sad time that never was honored with a narrative. Now, give it a story. Your most powerful lesson could be revealed.
Crystal Gibson is a wife and mother of two from Cleveland, Ohio whose interest in women’s empowerment comes from her personal experiences, raising her daughter and navigating corporate America for over a decade. She is passionate about simple living, mindfulness & meditation, gratitude, and raising strong daughters. Her goal is to write about these ideas to help women and girls with their journey – figuring out who they are and what they represent to the world. When she is not writing, she can be found gardening, crafting and spending time with her family.