What to Do When You Feel Sad & Don't Know Why
Life is unpredictable. That's part of what makes it such a beautiful ride. But most of us focus on the ups and try to run away from the downs. Unfortunately, the downs can be incredible teachers, and that includes sadness. We all get sad and feel down from time to time. That’s just a part of life. But it’s how you respond to these emotions that really matters. This leaves many of us asking what to do when you feel sad.
There’s no quick or easy way to deal with sadness, but you don’t have to wallow in it either. Instead, taking action is one of the best ways to heal and move on. Here are eight things you can do when you feel sad.
1. Give Yourself Permission to Feel Sad
It’s okay to feel sad. In fact, it’s normal. When something traumatic or negative happens in our lives, it’s natural to get upset.
You may have been taught that it’s not okay to feel sad or that you should “just get over it and move on.” Remember that humans are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions. Sadness is one of them.
Sadness is neither good nor bad – it just is. So, don’t beat yourself up for feeling down. Instead, try to treat this as an opportunity to learn, grow and heal.
After all, it’s the difficult times in life that give us the most meaningful lessons.
2. Accept and Embrace Your Emotions – Then Try to Let Them Go
Giving yourself permission to feel sad also means accepting and even embracing these uncomfortable emotions. The only way to overcome difficult emotions is to face them head-on.
If you’re used to running away or distracting yourself when you feel sad, it may be hard to embrace and sit with your emotions. That’s okay. Acknowledging your feelings is a great first start.
When you’re in a place to embrace and accept your feelings, it’s much easier to let them go. The goal is to feel your emotions, accept them, and then send them on their way. It’s like being on a ship in the middle of a storm and bracing yourself for the big wave ahead. First, it washes over you and then continues its journey across the sea.
Never underestimate the power of a good cry – it can help you release some of that sadness you’ve been carrying around.
3. Do Something That Makes Your Soul Happy
Sometimes, a little pick-me-up is all you need to start feeling better. Even when you accept your sadness and allow yourself to feel that emotion, it may take some time for you to get back to your old self.
So, try doing something that you love. Go to your favorite place. Dance like no one’s watching. Read. Write. Do anything that you love to bring a little smile to your face.
4. Talk to a Friend
Humans are social creatures, and we rely on the support of friends and loved ones to get us through tough times. If you’re feeling sad, reach out to a friend or a family member. The people who truly love and care for you will be more than happy to lend an ear.
Talking about your feelings can also help you process them and get down to the root cause of the problem. Friends can also offer helpful advice or just be there to give you a good laugh.
5. Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in nature can help you reset and recharge, even if it’s just for a little while. Go to a local park or hit the trails. Look for a peaceful place to sit or walk.
Try to experience nature with all five of your senses. Focus on what you’re seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling and maybe even tasting. Give yourself time to take it all in.
Nature can be a powerful healer. It can reduce stress and even lower your blood pressure. Research shows that spending just two hours in nature per week can significantly improve your well-being.
6. Do Something Creative
Finding a healthy outlet for your sadness can be therapeutic, so try doing something creative. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re good at it. You’re doing this for you – no one else. Expressing yourself creatively can help you work through your emotions and express how you’re feeling.
Creating something can also be rewarding and help you feel a sense of accomplishment during this difficult time.
There are so many ways to get creative:
- Creating music
- Crafting (knitting, crocheting, sewing etc.)
- Digital art
- Video production
The possibilities are endless. Even if you don’t think you’re a creative person, be fearless and give it a go. You may just find that a little creative therapy can help you feel better.
7. Indulge in a Little Self-Care
You can’t take care of anyone else or love anyone else if you don’t care for and love yourself. If you’re feeling down, take some time to indulge in self-care. Make it a priority – you deserve it!
Self-care can be whatever makes you feel good:
- A relaxing bubble bath
- Going through a skincare regimen
- Using aromatherapy to relax
- Doing meditation or yoga
- Taking a nap
- Watch your favorite movie
- Exercising regularly
- Writing in your journal
- Working with crystals
Self-care can also mean setting healthy boundaries, saying no to things and taking some time off of work.
8. Hang Out with Your Furry Friends
Pets are great listeners. They’re happy to cuddle and hang out while giving you unconditional love. They don’t expect anything from you (except a few pets or treats!), and they don’t judge you.
Research has found that petting a dog reduces cortisol levels (that’s the stress hormone). Social interaction with your pet can also increase levels of oxytocin – the “bonding” or “love” hormone.
Going out for a walk with your dog or playing out in the yard will also get you moving. Exercise causes your body to release feel-good hormones that can uplift your mood.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
If you think you may be depressed or have been feeling sad for more than two weeks, don't be afraid to reach out for help. The tips above may help a little bit, but talking to a therapist may help you feel better.
If you’re considering self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or you can text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.