Whatever type of sadness you’re feeling—seriously down, in a funk, don’t really know—you may be scared to open the door to it because you’re afraid of falling apart, says therapist and author Claire Bidwell Smith, LCPC. “But, the truth is, when we let ourselves feel [it], it's not as scary as we think it's gonna be.”
Plus, you might find that being sad enables you to process that emotion so it’s not as intense. “[Letting ourselves feel sadness] provides this release where we're able to move through it and not carry it around so much,” says Smith.
Sitting with sadness can also teach you about yourself, says licensed clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, PhD. You can start by asking yourself what brought on that emotion in the first place and if you’ve had similar experiences in the past, he says. That can help you discover problematic patterns that might be worth squashing.
But since you don't always have the capacity or time to feel hard emotions in your day-to-day life, strategically prioritizing space to process them enables you to keep your mental health in check while also being a productive human. If you’re wondering what to do during that designated feel-your-feelings time, allow us to introduce you to journaling. “If you're getting up in the morning and journaling or if you're coming home after your day and journaling, you're providing yourself an outlet for all those feelings that you're bottling up,” says Smith.
You can write about any good thing that might come from sadness—like how art, compassion, and empathy may result from pain—and also try to explore the sadness itself, like what Dr. Howes was talking about. So check out the mental health journal prompts ahead to help you move toward a better place and get that sadness sorted out.
Feeling sad as hell? Here are some mental health journal prompts for that:
1. Where is this sadness coming from? What is it about? (If you don’t know, just free write about how you’re feeling.)
2. Are there certain people, places, or situations that are making you sad?
3. Where do you feel sadness in your body? What physical sensations come up for you?
4. Within that sadness, is there someone or something that you’ve lost? How are you dealing with that loss?
5. Have you experienced similar sadness before? How did you cope last time, and how might you want to cope differently or similarly this time?
6. How long have you been feeling this sadness? Does it come and go in waves, or is it constant? Describe if there are any patterns of triggers and/or timing of your sad feelings.
7. What makes you feel the happiest, and how can you move toward that happiness right now?
8. If you took a break from your sadness, what would you want that break to look like? (BTW, it doesn’t have to be a happy break. It can be neutral or angry or any type of break you want.)
9. What would your sadness look like if it were a painting or drawing? You don’t actually have to sketch it out, but describe what the colors, shapes, and images would look like.
10. Who gives you the most comfort when you’re feeling sad? Why and how do they bring you this comfort?
11. How do you talk to yourself when you’re feeling sad? Are you showing yourself compassion? Are you frustrated? Annoyed?
12. Think about your day today. Has your sadness interfered with or dictated anything you did or anything you want to still do?
13. Are you experiencing any other emotions outside of your sadness? How do they feel paired with your blues?
14. Write about a time when you overcame a hard emotion—it doesn’t have to be sadness. How did you get through it, and how can you apply that here?
15. What are some goals that you have for yourself now or for the future? What are some small steps you can take towards those goals even while you feel this way?
16. Is your sadness causing you pain? How so, and how would you describe it?
17. What’s one good thing that happened today? (It can be super small. Like, super small.)
18. What songs do you listen to when you’re sad? What are some of your favorite lyrics from those songs, and why?
19. Were there any warning signs that this sadness was coming on or did it come on all at once? Describe how it all felt.
20. What does resilience look like to you? Have you ever felt resilient? If not, can you think of someone in your life who showed this strength?
21. What kind of emotion do you want to be feeling right now? If you’re comfortable in your sadness, write about that. If you’re looking for a sense of calm, hope, etc. describe what that would feel like.
22. Write a letter to your sadness. What do you want to say to it? What do you want it to know about you?
23. Write a dialogue between you and your sadness. How would your sadness treat you, and how would you treat it?
24. Imagine you’re walking up to the front door of your sadness. Describe what it looks like. Is there a light on? Is the paint all chipped and peeling? Does it give off warm and welcoming vibes? What does it feel like to open that door?
25. Write about when you were most proud of yourself. What happened, and can you remember how the pride felt in the moment? If you had that sense of pride right now, would it help or hurt the sadness you’re feeling?
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.