St. Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Remedies Against Sadness

On certain days we have all been sad, days when we have been unable to overcome an inner depression that weighs down on us and makes it difficult to interact with others. Is there a trick for overcoming sorrow and recovering our smile? St. Thomas Aquinas suggests five remedies against sadness that have proven surprisingly effective

  1. The first remedy is granting ourselves something we like. It’s as though the famous theologian had already intuited seven centuries ago that “chocolate is an antidepressant.” This might seem a bit materialistic, but no one would deny that a tough day can end well with a good beer. It’s hard to refute this by citing the Gospel, since our Lord took part joyfully in banquets and feasts, and both before and after his Resurrection enjoyed the noble and good things in life. One of the Psalms even says that wine gladdens the human heart (although the Bible also clearly condemns getting drunk).
  2. The second remedy is weeping. St. Thomas says

“a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened”. Weeping is the soul’s way to release a sorrow that can become paralyzing. Jesus too wept. 

  1. The third remedy is sharing our sorrow with a friend. I recall here the friend of Renzo in Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed.Finding himself alone in his deserted home ravaged by the plague and mourning his family’s horrible fate, he tells Renzo: “What has happened is horrible, something that I never thought I would live to see; it’s enough to take away a person’s joy for the rest of his life. But speaking about these things with a friend is a great help.”
  2. The fourth remedy against sadness is contemplating the truth. Contemplating the “fulgor veritatis” St. Augustine speaks of, the splendor of truth in nature or a work of art or music, can be an effective balm against sadness. 
  3. The fifth remedy suggested by St. Thomas is perhaps something we wouldn’t expect from a medieval thinker. The theologian says that a wonderful remedy against sadness is bathing and sleeping.