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How to be Sad: Everything I’ve learned about getting happier, by being sad, better

By Helen Russell

We live in an age when reality TV shows climax in a tearful finale. But feeling sad – genuinely sad – is still taboo. Yet, sadness happens to us all, sometimes in heartbreakingly awful ways. If we don’t know how to be sad, it can be isolating for those experiencing it and baffling for those trying to help others through dark times.

Today, most of us know intellectually that ‘sad’ is normal. But we’re not always brilliant at allowing for it, in practice. Sadness is going to happen, so we might as well know how to ‘do it’ right. And it’s time to start facing our problems and talking about them. Positive psychology may have become more accepted in mainstream culture, but rates of depression have continued to rise.

We’re trying so hard to be happy. But studies show that we could all benefit from learning the art of sadness and how to handle it, well.

We cannot avoid sadness so we might as well learn to handle it. Helen Russell, while researching  two previous books on happiness,  found that today most of us are terrified of sadness. Many of us are so phobic to averse to negative emotions that we don’t recognise them.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 04 Mar 2021
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0-00-838456-2
Price: £14.99 (Export Price) , £14.99
Helen Russell was formerly the editor of, writes for the Guardian, as well as writing a longstanding column for The Telegraph. She now writes for magazines and newspapers around the world, including Stylist, The Observer, The Times, The Sunday Times, Grazia, Metro, Stella and The i Newspaper.Russell’s first book, The Year of Living Danishly – Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country (TCM c.50k) became an international bestseller and has been optioned for television.She’s spent the last eight years studying cultural approaches to emotions and regularly speaks about her work around the world, including at TEDx and in her hugely popular Action for Happiness talks. As the former editor of, Helen spent twelve years in London but currently lives in Jutland, Denmark with her husband and three children.

'So brilliantly researched and written with great energy. And boy, did it make me think - I must have turned down 50 pages to come back to later!' Pandora Sykes -

”'This is such an important subject and we would all be better off if we absorbed Helen’s robust research and kind advice and allowed ourselves to be sad” - Cathy Rentzenbrink

'So brilliant, so heart warming, so extraordinary, so vulnerable and uplifting… wonderful. Should be compulsory reading for everyone' Helen Thorn -

'Helen Russell is back with another cracker of a book exploring how our relationship with sadness affects our happiness' Psychologies -

”'In any human life there are going to be periods of unhappiness. That is part of the human experience. Learning how to be sad - is a natural first step in how to be happier” - Meik Wiking, CEO, The Happiness Research Institute

”'I didn't think I wanted to read this book until I read it. Then I couldn't stop. An absolutely gorgeous and insightful and intelligent and necessary book” - Hollie McNish 

‘A very persuasive account of how accepting sadness as a key part of our human experience can lead to more fulfilment and ultimately more happiness. Full of moving personal insight and brilliant research. This book reframes feeling sad’ Anna Jones -

”'Helen brings an entirely unique combination of research, interviews, transparency, and story-telling to every book she writes. Thank you, from all of us” - Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist