How to Get Happy when You’re Sad

How to Get Happy when You’re Sad

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Everyone feels sad sometimes. In many cases, sadness is a normal human reaction to different life changes and events. The good news is that everyone also has the capacity to feel happiness and that there are things you can do to unlock that capacity and feel better.

Method 1
Method 1 of 4:
Finding Happiness Within

Write down your feelings. Consider buying a journal that you can designate just for writing down your thoughts and feelings. Often it is helpful to document your feelings of sadness in writing in order to better make sense of them. This will help you get “in tune” with yourself and achieve a deeper level of self-understanding.
Journaling – even for 20 minutes a day – works to clarify and organize your thoughts about your sadness, which may help you to better pinpoint the reasons why you are feeling sad. It also helps you keep track of your behavioral and emotional patterns. Additionally, some research has found that journaling can even help your physical health and strengthen your immune system because it works to reduce stress.
While writing, concentrate on what you are writing, not how you are writing it. In other words, don’t focus on your grammar or spelling. An example of a journal entry may look something like this: “I have had a particularly rough day today – my sad thoughts about the divorce will not leave me alone. Sometimes I’m not sure if I should even still feel sad about it because even though it happened a year ago, the marriage had been dead for a long time. I know that. But I do worry that I’m stuck in the past and that my kids are suffering for it. I’m also angry at myself for not being able to let myself let the sadness past go. People get divorced all the time, so why am I having such a hard time? Talking with my sister helped the last time I had a rough day; I think I’ll call her. I know tomorrow is another day.”

Laugh and smile. Studies have shown that the very act of smiling can improve your mood and make you feel happier[1] In addition, laughing releases endorphins, those brain chemicals that enhance your mood.[2]
Even though you may not feel like it, even using those small muscles that facilitate laughing and smiling can make you happier. So, try faking it. It may be forced at first, but laughing or smiling could trigger a funny or happy memory and cause a real laugh or smile to occur.[3]
If you want to try smiling or laughing without the effort, try watching a funny movie, reading a humorous book, or spending time with a friend who you know is likely to make you smile.

Have a good cry. Even though you may not want to cry because you are trying to feel better and want to feel happy again, sometimes crying can improve your mood. If you feel the urge to cry, then don’t hold back and instead let the tears out when you feel like it. The act of crying might make you feel better and more relieved, as the act of purging the tears can create the sense that you got the sadness “off your chest”.[4]
Studies suggest that a majority of people who cry feel better than they did before they cried. In part this is because crying is one of the body’s natural ways of ridding itself of stress hormones.[5] [6]
However, although it can be helpful to cry to reduce stress and improve your mood, it is important to know that not being able to control your tears may be a sign of a more serious emotional or hormonal issue. If you find that you cannot stop crying, you should seek professional help from a physician or therapist.

Try to look at the bigger picture. What else is in your life that makes it worth living? Try to think about all of the other things that you value in life, such as your friends, family, and health, and you’ll see that you probably have much to be happy about and thankful for, even if you don’t feel very happy or thankful in the moment. Numerous studies have shown that gratitude is deeply connected with happiness.[7]
Think about good memories. If you’ve lived through them once, you can have them again. That’s the beautiful thing about memories; just because things may seem bad right now doesn’t mean that they’ll be that way tomorrow.
In the case of sadness based on a minor life event, such as getting a bad mark on an assignment, put the event into perspective and consider whether you’ll feel sad in 10 years and whether the event will even matter then. Consider using that old phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”[8]
Make an effort to find one thing to be happy about each day. There are lots of challenges on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that use hashtags such as “100happydays” or “findthelight” to encourage people to find little moments of happiness and gratitude in their everyday lives.[9]
Even if your sadness is based on a traumatic life event, such as the loss of your spouse, reflecting more broadly on your life may be useful. For example, you may find comfort in remembering the good memories with your now-deceased partner as well as a sense of happiness and gratitude that you had him in your life, even as you grieve the loss that was too soon.

Distract your mind. Sometimes when we are sad, it’s hard to think of anything else. However, dwelling on your sadness can actually do more harm than good and can increase feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.[10] Pleasant distraction can help you focus on something other than your sadness and also reduce your stress – scientists call this “flow”. You’re not avoiding your problems, but instead engaging in an activity where you forget time and place.[11] Here are some examples of ways in which you can distract your mind:
Listen to music. Resist the temptation to go for the sad music. Try listening to energetic, jumpy, soulful, or happy tunes, along with songs that inspire you or remind you of good times. Music can be and is used as a very effective therapeutic tool.[12]
Look at some of your childhood pictures or photos from trips, graduations, and major life events. If a funny one pops up, don’t push it away. Savor it. It’ll help remind you that life passes by quickly and that there have been a lot of happy (and funny!) moments in your life along with the sad ones.

Read. Lose yourself in another world or in the past. Books transport us to places we’ve never been often, those places are more adventurous and romantic than the places we’re currently in. Whether you’re reading historical fiction or a steamy romance, being absorbed in another world will help you relax your mind and place our focus elsewhere. Just six minutes of reading can help reduce your stress level by two-thirds.[13]

Method 2
Method 2 of 4:
Assessing Your Sadness

Understand sadness. Sadness is part of a larger experience of grief. It is a painful emotion that is usually temporary and generally stems from external factors, such as a breakup, fight or disagreement with a close friend, moving away from family, or loss of a loved one. Sadness is a normal emotion that most people feel at various points in their lives.
The sadness stemming from a grief reaction can affect your concentration, appetite, and sleep.

Know the difference between sadness and depression. It is important to know how sadness differs from depression because the treatments for each are themselves different. Unlike sadness, depression does not usually have an identifiable external cause; it is just something people feel. In comparison to sadness, depression is a more serious problem that causes low mood, too little or too much sleep, weight loss or gain, increased or decreased appetite, low energy, disinterest in the world around you, avoidance of social situations, poor concentration, and feelings of worthlessness.
One of the key differences between depression and sadness is the ability to experience pleasure, love, and hope. When people are sad, they can usually still experience moments of happiness or pleasure. However, in cases of depression, many sufferers feel themselves unable to experience pleasure, hope or anything at all and become emotionally flat. Moreover, for depressed people, their sadness is like a cloud hanging over them from which there is no escape; they have a tendency to ruminate and dwell and feel unable to simply “get happy.”
Depression is also long-lasting and can be something that an individual struggles with for months, years or their entire life, whereas sadness is usually transient and temporary. If you find yourself unable to cope effectively with your sadness such that your daily functioning is negatively impacted and suspect that you may in fact be suffering from depression, you should consult a mental health professional. Treatment for depression can involve psychotherapy and medication, so it’s important that you assess whether what you are feeling is more chronic than occasional sadness in order to receive the proper treatment.

Reflect on your emotions. Has something happened recently in your life that helps explain what you’ve been feeling? For example, did you just experience a breakup or a loss in your family? Identifying the cause of your sadness will better help you understand and move past it. Reflecting on the external factors will also confirm that you are experiencing a normal reaction of sadness to something that happened, and not chronic depression.
In addition, knowing what is making you sad will also help you determine the appropriate methods to alleviate your sadness. The sadness you feel after you’ve broken up with your boyfriend of 3 months, for instance, will be quite different than the sadness you feel if your husband of 10 years has recently passed away.
If you have a suffered a major loss or trauma, it may be useful to consult a mental health professional who can work with you to develop coping strategies for your sadness and grief. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress inventory, the most stressful events that affect individuals’ mental and physical well-being include the death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, and the death of a close family member. In such cases where sadness is likely to be more extreme, the techniques described below may be useful in conjunction with therapy.

Method 3
Method 3 of 4:
Doing Fun Activities

Exercise. Go for a walk, a jog, or a bike ride. Play a team sport. Do anything that gets you up and moving. Exercising will make your body release endorphins, those “feel-good” chemicals that enhance your mood and inhibit the body’s stress response.[14] [15]
Any type of exercise or physical activity which requires you to expend energy and contract your muscles will trigger your body to release these helpful endorphins. So even if you don’t feel up to a spin class or 5k run, just cleaning the house or going for a 15-20 minute walk can help your body start releasing the endorphins you need to feel happier.[16]

Eat a healthy snack. Scientists have confirmed that what and when you eat can affect how you feel and your moods. If you’re feeling sad, try eating a low-fat, low-protein, but high-carbohydrate snack, such as a toasted English muffin with jam. When high-carbohydrate foods aren’t overtaken by the presence of protein or fat, they allow for a release of the amino acid tryptophan into your brain. Tryptophan then turns into serotonin, a neurotransmitter than improves your mood, and all within 30 minutes.[17]
You could also have carbs such as air-popped popcorn or a slice of whole wheat bread. But be sure to skip foods high in protein, like cheese and poultry. These foods suppress serotonin because all of the amino acids in them compete with and ultimately block tryptophan from releasing into your brain.[18]

Do something spontaneous. Sometimes a consistent and boring routine can make you feel bad. Do something out of the blue (but without making any rash decisions!). Go visit a friend or a museum, surprise your Mom with lunch, or take a weekend trip outside your city or town. By mixing things up a bit, you may rediscover your passion for life.
You could even shake things up by creating small “disturbances” in your everyday schedule. For example, do things in a different order in the morning. Make coffee after your shower, for example. Leave earlier for work. Just break out of that daily routine for a bit and see how you feel. Sometimes the routines that we become accustom to, while initially comforting, can become a trap.

Participate in a hobby. Channel your negative or overwhelming emotions into some other activity. Do something you enjoy and that relaxes you, such as painting, photography, poetry, or ceramics. Find whatever makes you feel at peace and helps transport you “away” from your daily struggles. This doesn’t mean that you can “escape” your sadness, but it does mean that you are better able to cope with it by making time for yourself to do something that you enjoy.[19]
You could also take up a new activity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try yoga but never got the chance. Throw yourself into something new to reinvigorate your life; trying out a new activity or hobby can also be a great way to meet other like-minded people.

Take a shower or a bath. You’ll be amazed at how much of a lift taking a shower can give you. Consider making your shower colder than you would normally. Cold showers can be very beneficial and healing; research has suggested that they can improve circulation and blood flow, reduce stress and tension, and boost your mood. The cold releases endorphins into your blood stream and brain and gives you a feeling of rejuvenation and positivity.
If you’re more inclined to baths, try putting some Epsom salts (about 1-2 cups) in the bath. In addition to helping detoxify the body and reduce tension, Epsom salts are reported to trigger the release of endorphins, and thereby reduce stress and improve mood.

Method 4
Method 4 of 4:
Being Social

Talk to a friend. A major factor in happiness is social contact and support.[20] Talking to a friend about your sadness or the situation that has caused your sadness can help lessen the pain because you will know that someone cares about you and your feelings. Talking out loud can also help you “air out” your emotions and clarify exactly what you are feeling because it requires you put those feelings into words. Your sadness is no longer abstract, but becomes real, something that can be named and discussed, through its articulation in words.[21]
Research has shown that people who experience major life stresses, such as the loss of a partner or job, come out the other side of the ordeal more easily if they have a network of friends and family on whom they can draw and rely.[22]
You may also learn something from talking to a friend. For example, maybe your friend has experienced similar feelings or a similar situation and can offer you support and advice. Alternatively, your friend may be able to help you look at your situation from a different angle and may be able to suggest methods of coping that you had not yet thought of. If you’re going through a break up, for example, maybe your friend reminds you of all of the times you called her complaining about how your boyfriend was inattentive and selfish. In this sense, your friend can help remind you of the reasons why you broke up with your boyfriend when you’re stuck being sad about the breakup itself.
Friends can also help you feel supported and alleviate the feeling that you are alone. They offer you a place to be heard and understood. In addition, simply talking with a friend may improve your mood since you will likely end up smiling and laughing at some point!

Go out and socialize. See a movie, go for dinner, or head out for a bike ride with friends or family. Along with distracting yourself, social interaction outside will help you get out of your own head for a few hours. Just talking with others – even exchanging menial pleasantries – and a change of scenery can improve your mood.[23]
If you’re a loner by nature, don’t overdo it with the socializing as this might make you more stressed and anxious. Aim for limited, low-key social interaction, like running an errand, grabbing groceries, or getting a pedicure with a friend, rather than a long night of bar-hopping with friends.[24]

Spend time with a pet. If you don’t feel like being social with other human beings, consider spending time your cuddly pet! Cuddling or petting a favorite animal can help improve your sad mood by meeting the basic human need of connection and closeness.[25] Research has shown that spending time with dogs increases the concentration of endorphins, chemicals that interact with the receptors in your brain to trigger positive feelings and improve your mood.[26]
Additionally, animals are particularly adept at sensing our moods through our body movements and tone of voice, so they are often “in-tune” with how we are feeling.[27]

Focus on others. Giving your time and energy to help others will not only help you stay busy, but will also give you a sense of reward and purpose, making you feel better about yourself and your situation.[28]
Find a volunteer activity that you’re passionate about such as helping out at a homeless shelter or food kitchen, caring for or walking stray dogs, or volunteering at a senior’s home.[29]
Even doing something small for someone else, like letting someone go ahead of you in the line at the grocery store, can make you feel better. Acts of kindness increase your sense of well-being because they are concrete things that you can do, and not just think.[30]



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Joy Chinonyerem

Joy Chinonyerem is an ardent follower of Christ who believes in Living the Christian Life according to the tenets set by Christ himself. She is passionate about Walking by Faith, as commanded by the scriptures and uses her blog, Walking By Faith Blog, to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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