| Marie Agius, PhD, LCMHC

We’ve all woken up and felt sad before.  Something happened the night before that we’re just not over yet.  It’s the anniversary of a tough event, death of a loved one, etc. We can all expect to feel this way from time to time.  Life happens and sometimes it makes us feel sad. But, what do you do when you feel sad for no reason?

Here are a few things to consider:

Is There a Trigger that you aren’t recognizing?

When you stop to think about it, there is more than likely a reason that you are feeling the way that you are.  It can be hard to figure it out sometimes though. Consider the past few days/weeks and ask yourself if there were any changes or factors that might have led up to feeling sad.

Have you been having a stressful time at work? Is something off in one of your friendships or your romantic relationship?

The real goal is to identify if there has been something different or ‘off’ recently that could account for how you’re feeling.  If you can’t find anything, don’t stress about it. Feeling sad is a normal human experience, there’s no need to judge it, or yourself for that matter.  Doing so will actually most likely make it worse.

Are You Depressed?

Depression can sometimes feel like feeling sad for no reason.  While it is normal to experience sadness for no reason occasionally, it’s important to know when to seek support from a professional.  If you have been feeling down for no identifiable reason for multiple days in a row you should consider talking to a therapist.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness (shocking, I know)
  • Feeling hopelessness or helplessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns; i.e. not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep; or the opposite sleeping too much
  • Changes in eating patterns, i.e. not eating enough or eating too much
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Even physical aches and pains

Does Something Need to Change?

Sometimes sadness is actually a sign  that something in your life is no longer working or serving you. You might consider the following questions:.

How have you been feeling in general lately? Do you generally feel content or does each day feel like a chore?

Identifying the things that are not working well for you, gives you the power to make different decisions around them.  There may be things that you can change immediately. There may be things that take longer to change but you can start to form exit strategies or longer term plans to address.

Perhaps it’s time for a move to a new city, or to change careers.  Maybe the friends that you’ve always hung out with just are not meeting your needs anymore.  Maybe it’s time to address some health conditions that have been nagging you but you didn’t think were serious enough to do anything about.

No one can tell you if something in your life needs to change.  You are the only who assesses what’s working for you and what is not.  It’s worth spending some time asking yourself if this sadness is just a passing emotion or if it is being caused by something specific that could be different.

Sadness Isn’t a “Bad” Thing

It is important to remember that sadness isn’t something that needs to be avoided altogether.  It can clue us in to bigger issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps there is an underlying depression that has got untreated.  Perhaps there is something in your life that really needs to change. Sometimes it is important to surrender and accept the uncomfortable feeling because fighting it can do more harm than good.

What To Do When You Feel Sad for No Reason

Check your internal voice

Are you indulging in negative self talk?  Judging yourself or others needlessly? Thoughts are like clouds, they come and go.  Sometimes they’re dark and scary, sometimes they’re light and fluffy. There’s no need to give anymore time and attention to one or the other.  Remind yourself that in time, just like clouds, those thoughts will drift away.

Practice Gratitude

Identify something in that moment that is working well for you and explore the ins and outs of how to appreciate it fully.  This could be a supportive relationship, a good meal, or it could even be your sadness as it might be really serving you well by drawing your attention to something that needs to change.


There are literally thousands of guided meditations on the internet that are free to use, and can help you develop the space (and patience) to accept your emotions and to let go of problematic thoughts or behaviors.

Get Moving

Research has shown for years that regular physical activity improves mood regulation, focus, and motivation.  Don’t wait until you feel like it (remember you’re sad, no one feels like exercising when they’re sad), just do it, and trust the process.

Have Fun

Remember all the things you did as a kid that were guaranteed to make your smile?  Do them. Blow bubbles, hula hoop, just be silly for a few moments. Again don’t wait until you feel like it, you won’t, this is a fake it till you make it kind of thing.  We can all use a momentary reprieve from time to time, even if the uncomfortable feelings don’t completely disappear, it’s nice to eke out enjoyment where we can.

Feeling sad for no reason at times, is completely normal and not to be feared or avoided.  Remember this is not a How To on getting happy. This is just a few suggestions out of thousands for recognizing, addressing, and tolerating the uncomfortable feelings associated with ambiguous sadness.  

Today's the day to make a change.