You’ve been waiting for the special day to finally arrive. But when it does, you feel down and depressed. Not exactly how you expected things to play out, right?
You’re not alone. Many people get depressed after something good happens. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. There are many reasons why we feel bad in the wake of positive events. But there are mindful ways to feel better, too. Here are 4 of them.
#1: Anticipatory joy
Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that
“The state of anticipating and desiring a product may be inherently more pleasurable than product ownership itself.”
In other words, wanting something makes you feel better than actually having it.
This doesn’t just apply to material possessions. Psychologists have identified something called “anticipatory joy.” It’s the anticipation of the desired outcome and it makes us feel good. Really good. In fact, it may be more pleasurable than the desired outcome itself.
How to deal with anticipatory joy
Anticipatory joy isn’t “bad.” It’s perfectly normal to be excited about an upcoming event, whether that’s the birth of your baby, your son’s graduation, getting promoted, or getting married.
Plus, anticipatory joy keeps us striving and moving forward. But it’s a problem when we get addicted to it. So, how can we keep this from happening?
Remind yourself that the upcoming event will be what it will be. In other words, remind yourself that it may not be a mind-blowing experience, and that’s perfectly alright.
Start saying, “I’m so excited” and “I accept all my emotions.” It’s okay to want to feel good but just don’t become so attached to feeling good that any other emotion makes you feel like a failure.
Remember that our minds love to create elaborate, imaginative stories in our heads. Your mind might create a story that won’t come true, and that will let you down. So, try not to spend too much time dreaming about the future day. Stay present to what is, right here and right now.
#2: Positive events are stressful
Yes, earning your Ph.D. is a huge accomplishment, but it takes a lot of work to get there. The same goes for a wedding, promotions, relocating, etc.
Whatever the positive event is, you can usually find stress close behind. It’s the groupie you wish would leave you alone. And when stress – even positive stress – builds before it screeches to an abrupt halt, it can leave you dazzled and depressed.
How to deal with pre-event stress
There’s no point in saying “Just don’t feel stressed before your wedding.” Or before you have a baby, or take your first vacation. Stress is normal and it happens to even the most zen friend you have.
But here’s what you need to know about stress. It’s not that important. What’s more important is how you deal with it. And one of the most important things you can do is acknowledge your stress and not judge it.
This isn’t easy. It feels wrong to be stressed out about a good thing. This makes us deny our stress and ignore it. But this is the surest way to get depressed later.
Instead of ignoring your stress, acknowledge and accept that this is your experience right now. And when you acknowledge and accept your stress, you can take mindful steps to be with it and relieve it.
Dedicate 3 minutes to sitting in a quiet place, with your eyes closed and focus on your breath. Do this every day. The more you practice this, the easier it will be to access this sense of calm and quiet when stress shows up.
When you practice self-parenting, you love and pay attention to yourself like you’re your own parent. Sometimes, this love and attention can be “tough love.”
For example, when we were kids, our parents made sure we ate our veggies and got enough sleep. In the same way, you have to remind yourself of what makes you feel good and then, follow through.
This goes for “boring” things like exercise, diet, adequate sleep, healthy boundaries and saying “No” when you mean No.
Yes, self-parenting sounds like a drag. But try to think of self-parenting as a way to be your very own advocate – someone who always looks out for your very bests interests. Self-parenting can help you cope with stress so it doesn’t ruin your special day.
#3: Pressure and expectations
One of the most difficult things in life is being true to yourself. Especially when you’re feeling emotions that are different from what you “should” be feeling.
For example, if you’re at a festive event and everyone’s happy and having a great time, it can be painful when you’re not.
How to deal with pressure and expectations
We get into a lot of trouble when we live according to “should’s”. I “should” be happy. I “should” want to be here. The should’s go on and on.
When we live according to our “should’s”, we don’t accept what is. For example, when we feel unhappy (that is, how we “shouldn’t” be feeling), we reject it, shame it, and shun it.
Consider the idea that every emotion is valid, and that it arises for a specific reason. Think of emotions like special messengers who have something valuable to tell you about your current experience.
Consider the possibility that you’re allowed to feel any emotion, and that all emotions are welcome – even if they’re not popular, expected or “right.”
#4: We’re more comfortable feeling negative emotions
Many of us are more used to negative feelings than positive ones. So, even if the positive feelings feel good, they feel different and strange in our mind and body.
Our cells get used to the stress hormone (cortisol) and they’re set up to receive that hormone. So, when we flood our system with a feel-good hormone, like dopamine or serotonin, our cells aren’t really prepared. And to be honest, neither are we.
This new and different feeling can actually trigger the sense that something’s wrong – all because you’re feeling something new.
How to deal with feeling negative emotions
If you usually feel negative, you can’t expect to feel over-the-moon when something good happens. So, instead of expecting yourself to feel great on one special day, try to improve how you feel on the “normal” and “boring” days.
The best way to do this is to elevate your vibrational frequency by cultivating a grateful mindset. You can do this by keeping a gratitude journal, going for a gratitude walk, or setting the intention to say “Thank you” more often.
When you choose to cultivate gratitude, it trains your brain to focus on the good things that are happening right now, rather than waiting for that “someday” to arrive.
Now is just as good a time as ever to feel good. After all, both Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng teach that your true joy is un-caused.
Do you tend to feel blue and depressed after something good happens? If you do, remember these 4 important reasons why, and try the tips for each one. You can transform your experience and start feeling positive emotions, rather than negatives ones both before and after positive events. That’s true whether you’re celebrating an important milestone, or tossing pebbles into a pond.