10 Things To Do When You Feel Sad

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated May 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Most of us have experienced some form of sadness at least once. Whether because of a recent disappointment, grief, or for seemingly no reason, sadness is a natural part of the human experience.

Often, melancholy or short bursts of sad emotions pass relatively quickly on their own. However, these feelings may sometimes linger for days, weeks, months, or even years. If you're experiencing lasting sadness, there are a few steps you can take to try to reduce the impact of the emotion and feel better. 

Here, you’ll find a number of helpful suggestions for things you can do to help alleviate feelings of sadness or melancholy, as well as some guidance for differentiating between sadness and depression.

It’s possible to work through persistent sadness

Things to try when you feel sad

1. Treat yourself with kindness

Remembering to be kind to yourself and not judge your emotions may be a helpful first step. Research suggests that feelings are not inherently "good" or "bad"—they are natural biological reactions. It may be helpful to think of your emotions as your body’s way to communicate something to us that we can learn from. In the present moment, take a deep breath and be patient with yourself.

While negative emotions like sadness can be exhausting, it’s important to engage in positive self-talk—negativity can compound the problem, allowing sadness and frustration to build up and persist longer.

If you wouldn't condemn a friend for struggling and tell them to "get over it," it may be worth treating yourself with the same level of respect, understanding, and patience as you work through challenging emotions. Remember, there is always hope for the future, even when things seem bleak.

2. Prioritize physical activity

Exercise is a known mood booster, and research has found physical activity can be an effective way to manage grief. Although it can be tough to motivate yourself to exercise when you’re feeling down, you may find that getting some exercise can help mitigate sadness. Whether it’s a trip to the gym, a yoga class, or a short walk around the block, try to find a way to move your body each day.

3. Spend time in nature

Studies show that spending time in nature benefits your mental health. Getting outside can enable you to change your environment and detach from your negative thoughts briefly while experiencing the beauty of the world around you. Make it a habit to engage in some form of exercise regularly. You may find that you start to feel happier or more at ease over time.

4. Get plenty of sleep

Sleeping has also been proven to be an effective way to recharge. Sleep is one of the most important indicators of mental health. If you can get into a healthy nighttime routine that includes seven to eight hours of sleep, you may feel more energized and better able to face any struggles that come your way. You may also want to monitor how much you sleep during the day due to your sadness, as this can make it difficult for you to get much-needed rest at night.


5. Take a break

While taking a break may not always be possible, try to give yourself a moment to reset your thoughts when melancholic feelings become overwhelming. It may help to take a moment apart from the distractions of your negative thoughts and think about what matters to you and what you have to be grateful for.

You might also consider what you can practically do in the next few minutes about the challenges facing you. Gauge if you are looking at the entirety of the situation instead of just giving in to the automatic thoughts that convince you things are bleak or worse.

Research indicates that you are in control of your thoughts and emotions, not vice-versa. Just because you have an idea or feeling does not mean it is the whole truth. These thoughts may only be part of a bigger picture, and we often have the power to challenge our perspectives and seek a new sense of understanding.

6. Enjoy nutrient-rich foods

Extensive research shows that our nutritional choices can impact mood and mental health. A balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and help you achieve better mental clarity, while refined sugars and starches may contribute to feelings of sluggishness that often accompany sadness. 

If you’re prone to emotional eating, it may be especially important to monitor your diet and prioritize healthy food choices to mitigate the effects on your mental and physical health.

7. Engage in mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices can be an effective way to help you emotionally regulate. Consider engaging in deep breathing exercises or listening to a guided meditation. This can allow you to get out of your head and focus on your breath, body, or other thoughts that aren't related to the sadness you're experiencing.

8. Express your feelings

Sadness can bring up complex feelings. It may, for example, lead you to reflect on your circumstances, actions, or relationships in ways that can be uncomfortable. To help you work through these feelings, it may help to express yourself. You might, for example, write in a journal or call a friend or loved one. Don't be afraid to cry if you need to, as it can be a healthy release of emotions.

9. Learn what you need

Not everyone responds to sadness in the same way. Some people may want to isolate themselves, while others prefer to surround themselves with as many people as possible to feel better. No matter the approach, it's crucial to recognize what works for you.

Try to be aware, however, of the way your choices may be either helping or harming you—sometimes, our natural reaction can limit our ability to care for ourselves. For example, spending too much time with others may not allow us to process and address what is really happening. Similarly, isolating may not allow us to have experiences outside of our sadness or connect with others. Finding a balance can provide a healthy escape while still allowing for reflection.

10. Seek out new experiences

If you’re unsure of what you need, it can help to seek out new experiences. For example, you could:

  • Start a DIY project
  • Volunteer
  • Make plans with a friend
  • Go to a concert
  • Try a new type of exercise
  • Discover a new nature trail

Take the time to explore the different avenues available to you that can bring happiness.

It’s possible to work through persistent sadness

Sadness or depression?

If feelings of hopelessness, despair, and fatigue are persistent, you may be experiencing depression. Clinical depression is a mental health condition, and just like other conditions, it can often be managed with the help of a professional. Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Persistent sadness or low mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Intrusive thoughts of suicide or self-harm

In this case, though the above activities may help you feel better, a professional may be able to offer longer-term solutions through guidance and therapy exercises. A therapist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that suits your specific needs as an individual as well as your symptoms.

Online therapy for support with sadness

Online therapy can be conducted anywhere an internet connection is available, which may help remove some of the barriers of traditional treatment, such as lack of transportation or difficulty with leaving home due to depression or other conditions.

Research has found online therapy effective for treating various conditions and issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and relationship concerns. Another study focused on online therapy and depression found that 71% of users of online counseling found it more effective than traditional in-person counseling.

Sierra Willis, LPCC
It's great to speak with someone who really listens. I learned important skills to use when I was feeling sad, upset or anxious. She helped me look at things in a different perspective, which has been so helpful in life situations.”


Taking the time to understand yourself and your sadness or depression better may help you recognize how to work through them. Strategies like self-love and self-compassion, meditation, breathing techniques, and getting enough rest may all contribute to overcoming persistent feelings of melancholy. When huge emotions happen, it's essential to remember that healing is a process, and patience with yourself is crucial.

If these issues continue to persist and are getting in the way of your day-to-day life, a therapist can help. Take the first step by reaching out for help from a counselor.

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