Things To Do When Feeling Sad
Updated February 04, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Dutil
There's probably no one person on this planet who hasn't experienced some form of sadness at least once in their life. Whether it's because of a recent disappointment, rainy weather, or for no real reason at all, everybody has inevitably been in a bad mood at one time or another. Luckily, for most of us, this is something that soon passes. However, for others, these feelings can linger for days, weeks, months, and even years. Let's look at a few things you can do to send those dark clouds on their way so that you can feel more at peace when you're struggling with feelings of sadness.
Treat Yourself with Kindness
First and foremost, it's really important that you be kind to yourself and not judge your emotions. It's really easy to get frustrated and wonder what's wrong with you when you can't seem to rid yourself of these sad feelings. Engaging in negative self-talk will just continue to allow these negative feelings to build up and become counterproductive to your goal of being in a more positive headspace. Just like you wouldn't condemn a friend for struggling and tell him or her to "get over it", you should treat yourself with the same level of respect and understanding that this is not something you asked for and that you can get better.
Physical Activity and Sleep
It sounds simple because it is. Unless there are thunderstorms and tornadoes about, taking a brisk 10-minute walk to the park and back is a very effective way to mitigate sadness. It gives you the opportunity to physically leave a location that might be causing you distress in addition to mentally allowing you to briefly detach from your negative thoughts. We also know that the endorphins released when exercising can greatly impact your mental health for the better. If you can make it a habit to engage in some form of exercise on a regular basis, you will likely start to feel lighter and happier over time. Even if you don't have the time to go to a gym or attend a yoga class, many people make light exercise part of their daily routine by doing something like walking to the post office instead of driving or using 10 minutes of their lunch break to walk around the block.
Sleeping is also a wonderful way to recharge. Sleep is one of the most important indicators of good mental health. If you can get into a healthy nighttime routine that includes at least 7-8 hours of sleep, you will likely feel more energized and able to face any struggles that come your way. You 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.
Give Yourself A Time Out
While this isn't always possible, you should try to give yourself a moment to reset and collect your thoughts. It helps to take a moment apart from the distractions of your negative thoughts and think about what you have to be grateful for, what you can practically do in the next few minutes about the challenges facing you, and gauge if you are looking at the entirety of the situation instead of just giving in to your automatic thoughts that convince you everything is bleak. 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. When you are struggling with sadness, the feelings can be so overwhelming that we can't easily access the part of our mind that acknowledges that everything is not bleak. No matter how difficult your situation, if we look hard enough, there is always something to be happy or grateful for.
When you aren't on a time crunch, you should consider a gratitude journal or make lists of things you're thankful for, plans that you can look forward to, or think of people that inspire you and write down the qualities they possess that you would like to take on. Meditating is also helpful as it forces 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 an intention for the day and do your best to live by that intention. You can also write positive affirmations that you recite to yourself every morning. Even if you don't believe these messages to be true at first, over time, you may start to absorb the importance of these words and act accordingly
Learn to Know What You Need
Not everyone responds to sadness in the same way. Some people want to isolate while others feel like they need to surround themselves with as many people as possible to feel better. There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which is most effective, but you want to remember that sometimes spending too much with others doesn't allow us to process and therefore, address what is really going on while isolating also doesn't give us the opportunity to feed off of other people's positive energy. It helps to take an inventory of our lives and get rid of toxic people, places, and things even though it may be extremely difficult. If something isn't working, we should work to identify what isn't serving us 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. 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. Take the time to explore the different avenues available to you that can bring happiness.
Be Aware of the Food You Consume
Something as simple as consuming healthy food can help improve your mood. Something like low blood sugar can have a definite effect on your state of mind. A simple snack might be all that's needed to make you feel better again. Before reaching for a doughnut or ice cream, take a moment to think about it as part of your overall diet. Eating something that consists of nothing, but sugar and refined starches will digest very quickly, boosting your energy for a while but soon leaving you low again. Consider a healthier option, such as peanut brittle or celery with peanut butter. You should allow yourself to consume foods that you enjoy but learning the impact that different foods have on your body can make a huge difference. What we consume is directly related to the way we feel.
What to Do When Feeling Sad All of The Time
If feelings of hopelessness, despair and fatigue aren't the result of a bad day, but rather a more or less constant feature of your life, you may be suffering from depression. In this case, though the above activities will certainly help you feel better, you should consider seeking professional help too. While talking to friends and family helps, a professional will be able to develop a treatment plan that suits your specific needs as an individual and your symptoms. Clinical depression is certainly a real thing and just like any disease, it can be managed with the help of a professional. Contacting a licensed counselor is often the first step to resolving such a problem.