Is sadness a sign of unhappiness?

Is sadness a sign of unhappiness?

When we think about what happy people look like, we visualise people who might be living carefree, smiling, travelling, and just being happy-go-lucky. This is the image that is illustrated for us and it is incredibly effective in drawing a picture of what happiness is supposed to look like.

Among other reasons, this contributes to the way we picture happiness. It gives us a façade that matches how we might see happiness in our mind, and through our expectations. So when we think about sadness, it doesn’t seem to fit well at all with our ideas of happiness. After all, being happy and sad is quite contradictory.

When we think of sadness, we associate it with certain words:

  • dejected
  • downcast
  • miserable
  • downhearted
  • despondent
  • despairing
  • desolate
  • gloomy
  • doleful
  • inconsolable
  • grief-stricken

It paints a picture of someone who has no hope, is hurting, and is alone in their thoughts and feelings. While it is indeed contradictory, sadness is natural and strikes us even at our most happy moments. Even people who are eternal optimists can be stricken by sadness. It can be a reaction to a tragedy, which is a reaction that is quite common.

In this sense, sadness is just a temporary emotional reaction. A happy person could very well experience multiple instances of sadness throughout their life without it really affecting their mindset and state of being.

Where sadness can go out of control is when it is self-inflicted. When we take on emotional burdens that do not belong to us or is not our responsibility, we make ourselves suffer this sadness unnecessarily. This can lead down a path towards desperation, and hopelessness.

In such situations, over prolonged periods of time, sadness can lead to depression where it can absolutely supplant your happiness. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Your mood is mostly depressed throughout the day.
  • A sense of guilt and worthlessness or uselessness.
    Your sleep is negatively affected, making it more likely for you to experience erratic mood swings.
  • You feel hopelessness, and possibly even start thinking about death and eventually suicide. 

People with high empathy that have a natural gift to help others can sometimes fall into this emotional trap. It is this ability to want to help that also makes people most vulnerable; but can also be a strength when focussed in the right direction. Many such people end up taking courses in counselling and counselling psychology. They wish to understand people around them, and figure out ways to listen and help whenever possible.

Join us at College of Allied Educators to learn how you can unlock your innermost self to find success and happiness.


Diploma in Counselling Psychology (DCPSY) is a Skillsfuture counselling course (claimable) covering a range of conceptual and functional skills in counselling. It trains students to apply appropriate counselling psychology skills in different situations, and equips students with the ability to work effectively as a counsellor.


Advanced Diploma in Counselling Psychology (ADICP) is a Skillsfuture counselling course (claimable)  and trains students to apply appropriate counselling skills in different situations while understanding their underlying theories. The ADICP programme introduces students to the nature of psychology and relates it to the theories and concepts of counselling. Students move on to explore themselves in order to promote personal growth and self-awareness, acquiring the key attributes of a competent counselor and the proper methods of applying those skills.


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