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Tips for Overcoming Sadness

Explore techniques to work through sadness.

Kat J / Unsplash
Source: Kat J / Unsplash

Cowritten by Zamfira Parincu and Tchiki Davis.

Sadness describes emotional pain that can come from experiences such as losing a loved one, social rejection, or failing to reach a goal. Feeling sad is normal; everyone has a bad day sometimes, and so we all feel sadness at some point in our lives. Sadness is also a healthy emotion. Although it might not be the most comfortable feeling, it can help you solicit the social support you need, give you insight, and allow you to process life changes.

When you feel sad, you might:

  • Cry more often.
  • Lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
  • Drink more alcohol than before.
  • Have trouble sleeping or sleep more.

It's important to remember that depression is different from sadness. Although some might use the words “sadness” and “depression” interchangeably and say things like “I’m so depressed today,” these experiences are distinctly different. Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental condition that negatively affects your daily functioning, has an impact on your body, and even alters your brain. Although feelings of sadness may be associated with depression, the difference between depression and sadness is not only about intensity or degree but also how it negatively affects one's life.

Tips for Overcoming Sadness

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality,” writes Andrew Solomon in his book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. If you find yourself feeling sad for longer than usual or with a higher intensity than before, there are a few things you can try:

  • Be aware. Gently ask yourself what is causing these feelings. It may be work-related, about a friend, or even about something that you didn’t follow through on as promised. As sadness can also appear when you’re lonely, grieving, or feeling helpless, the first step to feeling better is to identify what's caused the feeling in the first place.
  • Be sad. It can seem counterintuitive, but allowing yourself to feel the sadness you’re experiencing—and giving it time and space—can be extremely beneficial. Suppressing or denying your emotions can lead to actual physical stress on your body and mental health issues. Cry if you feel like it or take a few hours to recharge. Studies actually echo what philosophers have been saying for decades: Tears are cathartic, working like a purifying mechanism that helps you release stress and emotional pain (Newhouse, 2021).
  • Be compassionate. Validating your sadness can help you move through it. Be curious and compassionate about what makes you sad. Figure out what type of comforting you need—for example, you might want to talk to a friend or spend the evening alone—and allow yourself to get the self-compassion you need (Hendel, 2020).
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment without judgment because lack of judgment allows you to experience and work through sadness more quickly.
  • Connect. Loneliness and sadness go hand in hand. That’s why reaching out to friends or family might positively affect your mood and strengthen your social connections.
  • Improve your sleep. Sleep and mood are strongly connected. Studies clearly show a significant relationship between sleep and depressive symptoms (Nutt, Wilson & Paterson, 2008), so getting more sleep may help improve your sadness.

Adapted from an article on sadness published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.


Newhouse, L. (2021, March 21). Is crying good for you? Harvard Health Blog.

Nutt, D., Wilson, S., & Paterson, L. (2008). Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 10(3), 329.

Solomon, A. (2014). The noonday demon: An atlas of depression. Simon and Schuster.

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