Things To Do When You Feel Sad

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated November 16, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
It’s Possible To Work Through Persistent Sadness

Many individuals, regardless of age, have experienced some form of sadness at least once. Whether it's because of a recent disappointment, grief, rainy weather, when something bad happens, or for seemingly no reason, feeling sad or in a low mood can be 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. To recuperate, you may start with some of the things to do when feeling sad (or things to do by yourself) listed below, such as spending time in nature, playing at your local park, or writing in a blog to express your emotions.

Things to Try When You Feel Sad

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 and are generally trying to communicate something to us that we can learn from. In the present moment, take a deep breath and be patient with yourself.

It may feel easy to get frustrated and wonder what's wrong when you can't seem to rid yourself of sad feelings. Engaging in negative self-talk, however, may continue to allow these negative feelings to build up and become counterproductive to your goal of being in a more positive headspace.

If you wouldn't condemn a friend for struggling and tell them to "get over it," you may choose to treat 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.

Prioritize Physical Activity And Sleep

Taking a brisk 10-minute walk to the park and back can be a very effective way to mitigate sadness. It allows you to physically leave a location that might be causing you distress and may enable you to detach from your negative thoughts briefly while experiencing the beauty of the world around you. We also know that the endorphins released when exercising can significantly impact our mental health for the better. Studies show that spending time in nature also benefits your mental health.

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. Even if they don't have the time to go to a gym or attend a yoga course, many people make light exercise part of their daily routine by doing something small daily. This small exercise could be walking to the post office instead of driving or using ten minutes of your lunch break to walk around the block.

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.


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.

Try Deep Breathing

If you are in a situation where you can't take more than a few minutes to gather your thoughts, take a few deep breaths, think about what is going well in your life, and return to what you were doing with a fresh perspective. Don't forget to practice listening to your inner voice and acknowledge your emotions.

You may consider breathing exercises to help quiet your thoughts and create a space for self-reflection. When you are struggling with sadness, the feelings can be so overwhelming that it may feel challenging to tune into the part of your mind that acknowledges the reality of a situation and deals with any trouble that may arise.

Practice Gratitude And Meditation

When you aren't on a time crunch, consider writing in a gratitude journal or making lists of things you're thankful for, plans you can look forward to, or people who inspire you and why. Don't be afraid to cry if you need to, as it can be a healthy release of emotions. Meditating can also be helpful as it may 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.

Declare Your Intentions

Declare an intention for the day and do your best to live by that intention. For example, your intention might be, "I will be kind to myself today." You can also send yourself a text message with positive affirmations that you recite every morning or whenever you feel the need.

Some affirmations you might use could include:

  • "I am worthy of happiness."
  • "I believe in myself and my ability to control myself emotionally."
  • "I deserve the right to my emotions."
  • "I am lovable."
  • "I am worth the effort it can take to get better."

Even if you don't believe these messages to be accurate at first, over time, you may start to absorb the importance of these words and find your mindset shifting.

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.

It’s Possible To Work Through Persistent Sadness

There may not be a right or wrong answer to the most effective way to care for yourself. However, it can help to note that some options may 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 also not allow us to have experiences outside of our sadness or connect with others. Finding a balance, such as watching a movie with a friend or getting lost in a good book, can provide a healthy escape while still allowing for reflection.

It may help you to take an inventory of your life and set firm boundaries with unhealthy people, places, and things, even though it may feel challenging. If something isn't working, consider working to identify what isn't serving you well anymore and make changes.

Don't be afraid to change things up or do what you know has made you feel good in the past. For example, you might try the following tips:

  • Rearrange a room in your house or buy a new decoration that makes you happy
  • Listen to uplifting music that makes you want to dance
  • Call a friend to chat
  • Volunteer
  • Try something new to explore a new-to-you part of yourself.

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

Enjoy Nutrient-Rich Foods

Studies show that consuming nutritious food can improve your mood. For example, low blood sugar may influence your state of mind. A small snack might be needed to help you feel better again.

Before choosing a snack or food to eat, take a moment to think about it as part of your overall diet. Eating something that consists primarily of sugar and refined starches will digest very quickly, boosting your energy for a short while but soon leaving you low again.

You can simultaneously consume foods you enjoy and learn the impact different foods have on your body and mind. However, if you find yourself counting calories obsessively, worrying about the state of your body, or restricting your eating, reach out to a professional. You may be experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder.

What Do I Do If I'm Always Sad?

If feelings of hopelessness, despair, and fatigue are persistent, you may be experiencing depression. 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.

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.”

While talking to friends and family helps, a therapist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that suits your specific needs as an individual as well as your symptoms. Clinical depression is a mental health condition, and just like other conditions, it can often be managed with the help of a professional.

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.


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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