Picture of sad person wearing paper bag over head

What to do When You Feel Sad: 9 Helpful Tips

Feeling as though a dark cloud of sadness has settled over you can be an overwhelming and disheartening experience. Figuring out what to do when you feel sad can be even more challenging. Thankfully, it’s not impossible.

In 2021, 51% of young adults reported they felt down, depressed, or hopeless. These feelings can be triggered by a wide range of experiences, from personal struggles to global events. No matter the cause, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are steps you can take to feel better.

In this article, we’ll delve into the depths of what to do when you feel sad, providing you with top-notch strategies and valuable tips to help you overcome those gloomy moments and step back into the vibrant light of happiness.

What is Sadness?

Sadness is a natural human emotion typically triggered by specific situations. These can include loss, disappointment, or significant change.

Feelings of sorrow or unhappiness can vary in intensity from mild, temporary periods of feeling down to profound, long-term despair. What most people don’t realize about sadness is that it’s not inherently negative. Although it is uncomfortable to experience, sadness plays a crucial role in our emotional landscape.

Sadness plays a significant role in:

  • Teaching us empathy.
  • Helping us appreciate happiness.
  • Guiding us to make necessary changes in our lives.

Sadness acts as a signal from our psyche asking us to pay attention to something inside us or in our environment that needs adjusting or healing.

Why Do We Get Sad?

Sadness often results from events that have a significant emotional impact. This could be the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, or unfulfilled expectations.

Factors such as isolation, loneliness, or chronic illness can also precipitate feelings of sadness. However, many overlooked factors can contribute to our feelings of sadness.

These include:

  • Physical health: Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and insufficient exercise can make us more susceptible to feelings of sadness.
  • Environment: Weather and seasonal changes can also influence our mood. People can be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), experiencing depressive symptoms specifically during the darker, colder months.
  • Social media: Social media can lead to comparisons with others and, subsequently, feelings of inadequacy.
  • Self-Maintenance: Finally, not providing ourselves with enough time for relaxation and self-care can lead to feelings of sadness. Balancing work and personal life is often a challenge in our fast-paced society, but it is essential for maintaining mental well-being.

Knowing what to do when you feel sad involves understanding what it looks like. It is crucial to understand these often ignored factors to effectively manage and mitigate feelings of sadness.

Examples of Sadness

Even though sadness is a universal emotion, it can manifest in different ways for different people. Some may experience crying spells and feel heavy-hearted. Others may withdraw from social interactions and become irritable.

Everyone experiences sadness in their own unique way. However, understanding how sadness manifests for us can help us recognize when we are feeling sad. From there, we can take proactive steps to cope with it.

Here are some common examples of sadness:

  • Experiencing a sense of loss when a cherished relationship ends.
  • Feeling a deep sense of grief after the death of a loved one.
  • Feeling despondent after a significant failure or setback, such as not getting the job or promotion you were hoping for.
  • Experiencing loneliness or isolation, such as when moving to a new city or starting a new job, and not having a support network in place.
  • Feeling disappointment when expectations don’t align with reality, such as envisaging a perfect vacation that turns out to be a disaster.
  • Dealing with chronic illness or pain, which can lead to ongoing feelings of sadness or despair.
  • Experiencing sadness as a result of societal issues, such as poverty, inequality, or injustice.
  • Feeling emotional pain after being betrayed or let down by someone you trusted.
  • Going through a significant life change, such as children leaving home, which can leave a void and lead to feelings of sadness.
  • Experiencing sadness as a result of bullying or discrimination.

Knowing what sadness looks like can make all the difference. However, it’s important to remember that understanding yourself doesn’t have to come from a place of shame.

Why Do We Feel Ashamed of Sadness?

Societal norms and pressures often dictate that we should always strive for happiness, projecting a positive image of ourselves to the world. Such expectations can make us feel ashamed of natural human emotions like sadness.

We may be led to believe that sadness equates to weakness. Thus, we often hide our feelings, suppressing them instead of addressing them. Moreover, sometimes we fear that by expressing our sadness, we will burden others or be judged by them.

This feeling of shame associated with sadness can create a vicious cycle, amplifying feelings of isolation and despair. However, it’s essential to remember that all emotions, including sadness, are part of the human experience and there’s no shame in feeling and expressing them.

What to do When You Feel Sad

When you’re caught in the throes of sadness, you must first recognize and understand your emotions. From there, you can take deliberate steps to shift your mindset and manage those feelings. Here are some practical strategies:

  1. Self-Awareness: Be mindful of your feelings and emotions. Acknowledge your sadness without judgment, and try to pinpoint its source.
  2. Talk About It: Share your feelings with someone you trust, like a friend, family member, or professional counselor. Verbalizing our feelings can provide a sense of relief and help us gain a new perspective.
  3. Physical Activity: Regular exercise releases endorphins, often referred to as ‘feel-good’ hormones, which can help alleviate feelings of sadness. Choose an activity you enjoy to make it a regular part of your routine.
  4. Healthy Eating: Nutrition plays a significant role in our mood. Ensure you’re eating a balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to keep your body and mind in optimal condition.
  5. Rest: Adequate sleep is crucial for mental health. If you’re feeling down, make sure you’re getting enough rest to allow your body and mind to heal and recover.
  6. Mindfulness Practices: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help you stay present and focused, reducing negative thinking patterns associated with sadness.
  7. Hobbies and Interests: Engage in activities that you find fulfilling and enjoyable. These can serve as a positive distraction and can boost your mood.
  8. Positive Affirmations: Positive self-talk can help alter your mindset. Repeat phrases like “I am strong,” or “This too shall pass,” to instill a sense of positivity and resilience.
  9. Professional Help: If your feelings of sadness persist or intensify, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with resources and strategies to navigate your feelings effectively.

Remember, it’s okay to feel sad sometimes. The key lies in not allowing the sadness to consume you. By acknowledging your feelings and taking proactive steps, you can navigate through the rough patches and move towards a more positive mental state.