Feeling Down? Here's How to Bring Yourself Back Up (2023)

It can come out of nowhere, with no rhyme or reason, or it can follow a crushing breakup, the loss of someone special, or any other particularly tough time. It can slowly roll in, like the dark clouds before a storm, or it can hit you suddenly, without any warning. Whatever form it comes in, sadness is something we all experience—and yet it can still be incredibly difficult to get past.

But here's the thing: You can learn how to stop being sad. While some tried-and-true methods require you to dig deep, other ways to beat the blues are incredibly simple, like spending more time outside, watching a show that's practically guaranteed to make you laugh, and, yes, crying your eyes out. (No, spending all day on the couch, with a pint of Chunky Monkey in one hand and your favorite glass of red in the other is not a scientifically-proven technique for letting go of sadness, unfortunately.) One thing to note: If you're still feeling upset after a period of two weeks and if you notice any other symptoms—like loss of energy, trouble concentrating, or difficulty sleeping—you should reach out to a professional for help.

Ahead, psychologists and mental health experts share their top tips for how to stop feeling sad, regardless of your triggers.

First, don’t feel bad about feeling sad.

When something negative happens in your life, it can seem like your world is ending. But instead of suppressing or dismissing your emotions—either by distracting yourself or keeping up a good front—you should actually embrace them. “All emotions are important to experience and have valuable information for us about our lives,” says Dr. Lori Rockmore, Psy.D. In fact, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded “individuals who accept rather than judge their mental experiences may attain better psychological health, in part because acceptance helps them experience less negative emotion in response to stressors.”

Instead of beating yourself up for feeling down, try to consider this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and find true healing, says Briana Borten, CEO of the wellness organization Dragontree.

Can't pinpoint why you're sad? Try writing.

Sometimes it's easy to pinpoint the reason you feel upset―say, if you just can't get over your ex, you bombed your big work presentation, or you had a major fight with your partner. But, at other times, you may be sad for no discernible reason. When this is the case, grab a pen and a piece of paper and “write without stopping for five minutes or longer,” suggests life coach Sunny Joy McMillan. Not only may you naturally uncover what's causing your sadness, but just the act of writing may help you start to feel better, something that's backed by numerous studies. Alternatively, you could also try keeping a journal, taking a yoga class, or meditating―all of which are great ways to focus on your inner self.

Embrace your emotions.

As we mentioned earlier, when you avoid sadness altogether, you’re actually doing more harm than good. “You can’t heal what you don’t feel,” says life coach and author Nancy Levin.

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As uncomfortable as it may be, acknowledging and embracing your sadness is actually the first step to feeling better. "Instead of running away or eating something, drinking something, or yelling at someone, breathe it in," Tibetan Buddhist nun and author Pema Chödrön told Oprah during an episode of Super Soul Sunday. "No matter how bad it feels, you just give it more space. When you breathe in, you open to it."

To release sad emotions, don't overlook the value in a good cry.

Alternatively, you could also try "crashing," which is something Levin does when she's sad. “I put on music or movies or shows that I know will help me cry and have a release,” she says. (Need some recommendations? In our experience, Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" or Coldplay's "Fix You" are both great options for a cathartic cry.)

While it may seem counter-intuitive, Levin is actually on to something. "Only humans exhibit emotional crying," says Dr. Matt Bellace, PhD, psychologist, and self-help author. And not to get too science-y but Bellace says a biochemical analysis of tears found that the droplets contain an endorphin named leucine-enkephalin, which is known to reduce pain and improve mood. Plus, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, crying is associated with the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system―which stimulates a relaxation response―meaning it may have a self-soothing effect on people. Equally important: The same study found that "criers most likely report mood improvement if they receive comfort from others," so it may be helpful to let it out in front of a close friend or family member.

Now, here's how to move on.

Once you’ve ugly cried until your eyes burn, it’s time to get a grip on things. It could take a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. “Grief doesn’t live on a timeline,” says Levin. But you can’t stay in a dark hole forever. Here’s how to crawl out:

Set the bar ridiculously low.

To ensure that you don't go from zero to 100 and back to zero again, “lay the groundwork for success by initiating action in the smallest possible increments,” suggests McMillan. Start by doing something simple (like brushing your teeth or washing your face) and then continue taking small, incremental steps (say, making coffee or putting on a clean, cozy sweatsuit). “Once you get moving you may be surprised that you feel inspired to do more,” she says.

Find what does make you happy. (And laugh).

Consider this the opposite of crashing: Instead of embracing weepy, tearjerkers, pick out an uplifting read, put on some happy tunes, or watch a few feel-good films, suggests McMillan. Alternatively, you could engage in an activity or hobby you truly enjoy, whether that's volunteering, working on a challenging jigsaw puzzle, or tending to your lush gardens.

Even better? Doing something that'll make you laugh (think: listening to a comedy podcast, or even watching a cat video on YouTube). "Laughing in response to pain and sadness can be a terrific coping mechanism," says Bellace, adding, "Laughter releases endorphins similar to exercise, reduces the stress hormone cortisol, and increases dopamine (a.k.a. 'the feel-good-hormone')." Of course, the grieving process takes time, "so there is no shame in not wanting to laugh for a while," assures Bellace.

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Reach out to your people―especially if you're feeling lonely.

Having a support network is key, especially if you’re going through a difficult time―so consider this permission to invite your girlfriends over for even more wine and cheese (yes, a virtual happy hour, counts too).

Need some help expanding your social circle? "Do things outside the home that include other people,” says Borten. For example, pick something that generally interests you, like a book club. “You’ll be surprised how quickly a community forms.” And while it’s great to have friends IRL, even an online community can offer kindness and accountability. Try searching Facebook for groups that may be able to offer support―for example, a bereavement/grieving support group. Or, search groups by interests (travel? cooking? even crochet!) to find like-minded people who can lift your spirits with a common passion. Just “make sure the online group is a loving place, involving people with a common goal,” says Borten.

Reframe your thoughts to stop thinking about the past.

Let’s say that after a break up, you keep telling yourself you’ll never find love again. Or, perhaps you got a not-so-glowing review from your boss at work, so now you're convinced you'll never be promoted and you might have chosen the wrong career entirely.

That's when it's time to change your narrative. Therapists call this technique cognitive restructuring and it's a process in which you identify and challenge distressing and irrational thoughts. One way to do this: Simply turn a negative thought into a positive one. For example, says McMillan, instead of telling yourself, "I’ll be alone forever," try saying "I will find love again." (Or if that’s a stretch even saying “I may find love again,” is better!) You’ll feel more peace and less sadness, and eventually you will even believe it.

Spend time in nature.

Rockmore recommends experiencing the outdoors with all five of your senses, which she calls “behavioral activation.” Pay attention to what you see, feel, hear, smell and possibly taste in nature, and it may help you out of your slump. “Getting out of hibernation and being active stimulates the nervous system and gives people the opportunity to see beauty in the world,” says Rockmore.

That's also part of the reason why spending time outside can reduce stress and decrease blood pressure, as well as increase creativity, and cognition. Don't have time for a 6-mile hike? According to a 2019 study, spending 120 minutes a week (or just over 17 minutes per day) exploring your local park or walking around your neighborhood can greatly enhance your overall sense of well-being.

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Seek help if you think you may be dealing with depression.

If your sadness goes beyond the blues—your sleeping patterns and eating habits change, you’re not interested in activities you used to enjoy, you have trouble concentrating or making decisions—it may mean it's more than just ennui. And while self-help books are a good tool (Rockmore recommends The Happiness Trap and Beat the Blues Before They Beat You), you may find that talking to a therapist—even if it's through an online platform—is helpful.

If you are considering self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741, the Crisis Text Line.

Feeling Down? Here's How to Bring Yourself Back Up (1)

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Feeling Down? Here's How to Bring Yourself Back Up (2)

Sara Stillman Berger

Sara is a freelance writer in New York, where she hides her favourite candy from her husband, two kids and even her golden retriever. The goldfish never asks for anything. Sara's work has appeared in The Washington Post, Women’s Health Magazine, Eating Well, shape.com, Scary Mommy, Runner’s World, Prevention, Seventeen, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides Magazine, among other publications.

(Video) HOW TO PICK YOURSELF BACK UP WHEN YOU'RE FEELING DOWN!

FAQs

How do you come back from feeling low? ›

What you can do if you're feeling low
  1. Write it out. If you haven't yet, try writing down how you're feeling. ...
  2. Make time for yourself. Feeling down may be your body's way of telling you it's time for a break. ...
  3. Set goals. ...
  4. Try not to isolate yourself. ...
  5. Do more of what you enjoy.
Jul 16, 2021

How do you get up and go when you're feeling low? ›

A little activity every day

If you can, doing little things every day to be more active – like taking the stairs instead of a lift, or standing up to stretch your legs every so often when sitting down for long periods – can really lift your mood.

How do I get rid of sadness in my mind? ›

Giving it time – time can sometimes be enough to alleviate sadness; being patient, allowing the feelings to arise and come out through crying, journaling, taking quiet time to be in nature or with yourself, and/or talking to others, and simply accepting where you are can make a big difference.

What should I eat when feeling down? ›

5 mood-boosting foods
  • Eggs – with yolk. The protein provided by eggs helps stabilize blood sugar and the yolks contain B vitamins, which are proven to lessen the severity of depression's symptoms.
  • Cold water fish. ...
  • Nuts and seeds. ...
  • Grains. ...
  • Low-fat dairy.

How do I stop mentally broken down? ›

10 Tips to Mindfully Survive a Nervous Breakdown
  1. Practice Meditation. Try to meditate at least once a day. ...
  2. Ask Friends for Help. ...
  3. Practice Self-Compassion. ...
  4. Common Humanity. ...
  5. Listen to Your Body. ...
  6. Reduce Technology. ...
  7. Communicate Your Needs. ...
  8. Dropping into the Present Moment.
Apr 6, 2016

What triggers sadness in the brain? ›

Sadness is associated with increased activity of the right occipital lobe, the left insula, the left thalamus the amygdala and the hippocampus. The hippocampus is strongly linked with memory, and it makes sense that awareness of certain memories is associated with feeling sad.

How do I stop mental shutdown? ›

A nervous breakdown is often triggered by intense stress and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. A doctor may recommend a combination of treatment options, which could include talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
...
Lifestyle changes
  1. acupuncture.
  2. massage therapy.
  3. yoga.
  4. breathing exercises.

What three foods help depression? ›

Include some protein at every meal

Protein contains Tryptophan. Research suggests that consuming it may help with depression. Good sources include fish, poultry, eggs and game, but some green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), pulses and seeds are also a source.

What vitamin helps you feel happy? ›

Researchers have studied the association between foods and the brain and identified 10 nutrients that can combat depression and boost mood: calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and zinc.

What vitamins help mood? ›

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

How do you know if you are shutting down emotionally? ›

Symptoms of emotional detachment

People who are emotionally detached or removed may experience symptoms such as: difficulty creating or maintaining personal relationships. a lack of attention, or appearing preoccupied when around others. difficulty being loving or affectionate with a family member.

What are signs of a mental breakdown? ›

The most common signs someone is having a mental breakdown are:
  • Hopelessness.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Sense of worthlessness.
  • Unable to sleep.
  • Lacking appetite.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Severe disappointment with their life.
Feb 11, 2022

How long does a mental breakdown last? ›

A breakdown can last anything from a few hours to months and even years. It is also known as a mental or nervous breakdown or reaching rock bottom.

What is the number one cause of depression? ›

There's no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers. For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, can be the cause. Different causes can often combine to trigger depression.

Where is sadness located in the body? ›

Previous research had established that sadness and other emotions involve the amygdala, an almond-shaped mass found in each side of the brain. And there also was evidence that the hippocampus, which is associated with memory, can play a role in emotion.

What happens to your body when sad? ›

Along with the emotional baggage it carries, extreme sadness can cause distinctive physical sensations in the chest: tight muscles, a pounding heart, rapid breathing, and even a churning stomach. As you can see on the body map, survey respondents pinpointed the chest as a major spot for the manifestation of sadness.

How do I restart my mental health? ›

These strategies can help restore your serenity and keep you emotionally grounded:
  1. Start with a stabilizing routine. ...
  2. Reach out to others. ...
  3. Have phone conversations or video chats. ...
  4. Practice mindfulness and meditation. ...
  5. Try out a mental health app. ...
  6. Declutter your relationship. ...
  7. Enjoy fun, creative activities. ...
  8. Eat healthily.
Jun 13, 2022

How do I get my mental state of mind back to normal? ›

8 Ways to Give Your Mind a Deep Cleaning
  1. Be mindful.
  2. Start writing.
  3. Put on music.
  4. Get some sleep.
  5. Take a walk.
  6. Tidy up.
  7. Unfocus.
  8. Talk about it.
Nov 10, 2020

What does an emotional breakdown look like? ›

Anger, irritability, mood swings, or emotional outbursts. Loss of interest in activities. Isolation and a tendency to avoid work and social settings. Changes in the way one views the world, themselves, and others.

What do you eat to make you feel better? ›

Good Mood Foods: Feel Great Physically And Mentally
  1. Bananas. Rich in potassium and the mood-regulator, tryptophan, bananas are a healthy and natural way to fill up. ...
  2. Quinoa. This edible seed contains quercetin, a flavonoid shown to have anti-depressant effects. ...
  3. Oysters. ...
  4. Turmeric. ...
  5. Dark Chocolate.

What do people eat when they are depressed? ›

Try to eat something with protein several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy. Good sources of healthy proteins include beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, and yogurt. The right food choices may help lift your mood.

What foods do you crave when sad? ›

One of the chemical indicators of depression is a decrease in the body's concentration of serotonin. Coincidentally, studies have suggested a correlation between low serotonin levels and cravings for sugary foods.

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