We all face sadness in life.

Whether it’s losing a loved one, a breakup, hurtful words spoken by someone we care about, or feeling empathy for another’s hurt, sadness is inevitable.

Just like most emotions, sadness can be good. It is a signal that we are going through a difficult time and need to treat ourselves kindly. Furthermore, it provides contrast in life, allowing us to appreciate times when we feel happy. It can also be a break from overstimulation and cause us to slow down and rest.

But, just like every other emotion, when not managed in a healthy way, we can become “stuck.” When we don’t process and move through our sadness, it tends to linger and prevent us from experiencing life’s joys.

Sadness vs. Depression


While sadness and depression have some similarities, they are two different things. It’s important not to confuse the two.

Feeling sad, even extremely sad can be a normal part of life. But, while sadness is a universal emotion, depression is not.

Depression consists of a range of symptoms, with sadness being just one. Feeling extreme sadness all day, every day could be a sign of depression. Others include difficulty engaging in daily life, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. (1)

Depression is more than a feeling; it is a mental illness that requires treatment from trained medical professionals. No one should feel sad all the time, and when that sadness interferes with living the life you want to live, it’s time to seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out. Here is a good place to start.

What it Means When You Feel Sad

Sadness is usually the result of something that happens around or to us. We all know this from personal experience.

The emotion of sadness signals that something has grieved or hurt us. It tells us we need to process grief or pain and reach out for support and comfort.

When we feel sad, there are as many as 70 areas of the brain that may be involved in the emotion. (2) In addition, there can be changes in pleasurable neurotransmitter levels in the body. (2) These physiological changes are meant to spur us to take steps to address the feeling of sadness.

For example, when sadness causes a drop in pleasurable neurotransmitters, we may reach out to a partner or loved one for support, which will then increase levels of pleasurable neurotransmitters. Our body’s intelligence is clever enough to guide us to what we need.

A less positive coping mechanism might be to choose activities that attempt to numb the emotion, such as eating, watching television, or shopping. The intention may be the same, to increase feel-good neurotransmitters, but the long-term effect is quite different.

When we seek loving support to manage our emotions, we will feel better, and on a deeper level, we will also be better. Healthy emotional intelligence makes us better people. No amount of cookies or sitcoms can achieve that.

Why We Need to Feel Sad


It is common in our culture to view sadness as bad. The message to “think positively” and “grin and bear it” is pervasive. Even with children, the tendency is for parents to talk their kids out of feeling sad. No one wants to see their kids cry. In some families, it is even viewed as a form of weakness. 

While wallowing in sadness is not a good thing, respecting the emotion and taking time to experience it fully is essential to healthy coping. It can be a tricky balance. We want to express our sadness but also not fall apart at the drop of a pin.

At the same time, denying any feeling or attempting to suppress it is generally a sign of poor emotional intelligence. 

There is value in making room for the healthy expression of grief or pain. Fully experiencing sadness makes us alive to what matters in life. It sets the stage for the full expression of all of life’s emotions, including joy and happiness. (3)

Feeling sad can even have positive benefits in certain situations. When you feel sad, you are more likely to empathize with others, have a better memory of what is going on around you, and be less judgmental when making decisions. (4

None of this is to say that we want to promote sadness or stay in that emotion. But, our efforts to deal with sorrow should be focused on acknowledgment and acceptance instead of avoidance.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Feeling Sad

Since we cannot escape feelings of sadness, we need emotional intelligence to manage it when it arises.  There are many ways sadness can help us learn and grow if we are willing to experience it fully.

Here are five ways to deal with feelings of sadness:

Acceptance and Expression


Emotional intelligence begins with acknowledging what we are feeling. For example, if you feel sad, it may be necessary to start by saying to yourself, “I am feeling sad.” This, in effect, gives you permission to feel what you are feeling without placing judgment on it.

Once you have accepted what you are feeling, it can be helpful to express your feelings in a healthy way. Have a good cry if you need to. Maybe give yourself 10 minutes to lie down and fully experience the emotion.

Use the Be Well app to record what you are feeling. Acknowledging the feeling is essential to moving past it. The app will also give you ideas for working with the emotion, helping you focus on positive coping skills.

Once you’ve expressed your feelings, see if you can begin the process of moving on with your day.

Boost Your Mood

Instead of wallowing in sadness, choose an activity that brings you joy. Listen to music, get into nature, go for a run, whatever gives you a reliable shot of happiness.

The Be Well app has hours of mood-boosting music that can help you move past sad emotions and feel better. Many of the video options available in the Be Well app are also helpful with releasing tension and unpleasant feelings. A gentle yoga, tai chi, or qigong video might be just the thing to reset your mood.

Finding a mood booster isn’t meant to deny what you are feeling, but it can remind you that feelings come and go. No feeling is forever, and we have a role to play in promoting healthy coping strategies for our emotions.

Make Sure Your Needs Are Met


It is difficult to care for your emotional state if your physical needs are unmet. So if you’re struggling with feelings of sadness, start with the basics:

  • Have you had enough water?
  • Do you need a meal or snack?
  • Have you been getting the sleep you need?
  • Does your body need some refreshing movement?

Tending to the well-being of your body is also tending to your emotional well-being. Feeling physically strong can help you feel strong enough to better manage unpleasant emotions.

The Be Well app is set up to help you achieve complete wellness. Use the resources in the app to build your self-care skills. From teaching you how to eat well to help you get a good night’s sleep, there are endless ways the app can remind you of what you need to feel truly well.

Get Support From Others

Sometimes, sharing what we are feeling is the best way to make the feelings manageable. When you feel sad, it’s good to reach out to your support people and share what’s going on. Talking through your feelings can put them in perspective and be an essential part of moving through them.

Seeking a professional counselor can be another healthy way to deal with sadness or grief. If you are dealing with a situation of extreme sadness or grief, such as the loss of a loved one, speaking with an expert may be the best choice you can make for your long-term wellness.

Practice Mindfulness


Cultivating greater self-awareness through mindfulness can be an essential step in managing sadness. Sometimes we have self-destructive thought patterns or behaviors that regularly upset us or put us in situations that leave us feeling sad. 

Practicing mindfulness can hold up a mirror to our habits and thoughts. Finding the source of our emotions may allow us to work through them and move past them. When you record your feelings in the Be Well app, that is a perfect example of being mindful. You are noticing what you are feeling and acknowledging it. This allows you to be present in the moment with intention.

Mindfulness also promotes resilience. (5) When we are resilient in the face of unpleasantness, we will be better equipped to find joy even when faced with sadness.

Sadness Is Part of Living a Full Life

We shouldn’t want to be numb to sadness any more than we would like to be numb to joy. Life contains both, and our experience of one is essential to our understanding of the other. 

What we do want are the skills to deal with sadness when it inevitably arises. Instead of running from our feelings, we need the strength to accept them and continue to live a full life in the midst of whatever we are feeling. 

Sadness can certainly feel unpleasant. But, while it’s important to feel it, we don’t have to stay there forever. With the right tools and support, it’s possible to move through sadness and come out on the other side. Joy may be just around the corner.