Don’t Know Why You’re Sad? 5 Reasons You Might Be Feeling Down

I had an unusual experience the other day. I felt sad — and I had no idea why. I’ve been regularly exercising, eating (mostly) healthy, and I’ve enjoyed some time with friends.

So why do I sometimes feel sad, and unable to kick the feeling? I’m pretty sure depression isn’t the issue for me, so I wanted to figure out why I was feeling a bit “blue,” and why I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling. Here’s what I what I found:


1. You Let Your Mind Wander

When your mind wanders too much, it can lead to feelings of listlessness and unhappiness, according to a Harvard study published in 2010. Without a purpose or focus, or just a way of being present in the moment, you can feel sad without knowing why.

This might be my problem at times since I have a tendency to let my mind wander. One way to combat this is to have purpose in your thoughts, whether you are planning for the future, or keeping your mind occupied with a current task (such as reading, work, or play). Meditation is also helpful when your mind wanders since it focuses on bringing you to the present and living in the present.

2. Diet Soda

The artificial sweetener aspartame, when regularly taken, can contribute to feelings of sadness. A study found that drinking diet soda and diet iced tea can contribute to feelings of sadness, and increase irritability and anxiety. I don’t drink diet soda or eat foods with artificial sweeteners very often, so this isn’t my problem. However, society today features a lot of food and drink that contains aspartame. If your diet contains quite a bit of aspartame, that could be one of the reasons that you feel sad.

3. Dim Light in Your Room

We all sleep better in the dark (of course). Many of us don’t worry about dim light, however. Dim light might be the cause of your unexplained sadness, so it’s worth considering. According to a study published in Nature, four weeks of sleeping in a room with dim lighting, such as a nightlight, streetlight coming in from outside, and the glow of a computer screen or TV, can contribute to feelings of sadness.

Since we moved, light from the outside in our apartment complex has been a feature in our room. Perhaps it’s time to consider buying some thick curtains for the window our room since the blinds aren’t keeping out the light.

4. High Altitude

Metabolic stress from living in an area of high altitude might be affecting you, according to one study. Since I’ve moved east, high altitude is not my problem (although during the summer I sometimes feel as though the air is far too thick). However, I don’t think high altitude affected me much even when I lived in the West because I was born and raised at a reasonably high altitude and frequently camp in the mountains. Plus, I didn’t feel undefinable sadness very often while I lived in the mountains. If you’ve recently moved to a higher altitude, though, you might be feeling the effects of the stress it might put on your body, resulting in unexplainable feelings of sadness.

5. You Don’t Smile Enough

Sometimes, even if you’re not actively sad, you might still forget to smile. Or you might not smile very much during your day. There is evidence that your expression matters. If you are working intensely for a long period, and you don’t have a break to smile, you could end up feeling unhappy. If you feel sad, but you’re not sure why, think about the last time you smiled — and consider smiling right now. Put a smile on your face, or listen to something funny that makes you laugh, and you might be able to pull yourself out of your brown mood. Make it a point to smile multiple times each day, and your overall mood might improve.

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