The Antidote to Sadness

I'll never forget the first time I was profoundly sad.

It was the day my grandfather passed away.

It was the first time I'd lost anyone close to me, and I was very close to my grandpa. It hit me really hard.

The first thing I did was cry. I'm not much of a crier, but that day I couldn't stop. I just sat there leaning up against a doorway and cried. For hours. 

Once I ran out of tears, I was faced with a very difficult decision: What do I do now?

The only thing I wanted to do was bring him back, and I couldn't do that. So what then?

At that time, I turned to books. Lots and lots of books. For several days, all I did was eat, sleep, cry, and read. 

And as I burned through books one after another, I started to realize something. I was getting better. The pain was still there but the crying stopped. Then the pain started to subside and happy memories moved in.

After a long while, eventually, I was something resembling okay. And, looking back, what helped me the most was books.

It turns out the depression isn't caused from bad things happening. Bad things are always happening. No, depression is caused from ruminating.

We get depressed when we take a bad thing and swirl it around endlessly in our minds. Because we're constantly replaying the pain, we can't get better. To start to heal, we need a break. For me, books provided that break.

That's how I got better.

There's been a lot of bad stuff going on in the world lately, and maybe something bad has happened you. If so, let the pain come initially and deal with the immediate emergency. Once that's passed, though, remember that you need a break to start to heal.

And here are some things that work for me.


  • In my grief at that time, I read Michael Crichton books. They're very detailed and quasi-realistic, and that makes for good distraction. My favorite Crichton books were Rising Sun, Disclosure, and The Great Train Robbery
  • Currently, I've found the Jack Reacher books to be a wonderful mind-occupier. My favorite Jack Reacher books are The Enemy, Never Go Back, and Personal

Of course, we have more options today. Here are some movies that might work.


  • The Usual Suspects. If you haven't seen it before, this might be the best thing you can do to give your mind a break. It's the mother of all plot-twisters.
  • Ocean's Eleven. Fun and engrossing. And completely re-watchable.
  • Point Break. I'd forgotten about this movie until I heard it discussed on a recent podcast. It's a great action movie and keeps your attention. If you're interested in that podcast about Point Break, it's here

The key to healing is not to ruminate. Don't play the sadness over and over in your head. Of course, that's easier said than done, so use those tools up above.

If you do, someday you might actually be doing okay again.


My latest book is The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.