A Therapist Suggests 3 Ways To Overcome Feelings Of Emptiness

Here’s how to go from feeling nothing to feeling something good.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | April 6, 2023

Numbness is not an uncommon feeling, manifesting itself as a combination of confusion, loneliness, a lack of motivation, and a disinterest in our surroundings. It can often emerge 'out of nowhere' with no particular cause.

Psychologists define this feeling of emptiness as a complex, negative emotional state that is experienced in different ways by different individuals. An article published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry proposed three elements that are central to its emergence:

  • Feelings of chronic tiredness and lethargy in the body
  • Withdrawal, isolation, and loneliness, even within one's social circle
  • Persistent feelings of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment

The interplay of mind, body, and emotions all contribute to feelings of despondency.

Of course, it is a state like any other – and all states change over time. Here are three things you can do to go from feeling nothing to feeling something good.

#1. Find something to look forward to each and every day

Difficult relationships, stressful jobs, losses, and failures are just some of the circumstances that can create a lingering feeling of emptiness. The intensity of our busy lives makes it easy to lose touch with ourselves.

One study attempted to define what emptiness felt like in psychologically distressed individuals. The authors, led by Caitlin Miller of the University of Wollongong in Australia, found it to be closely associated with purposelessness and a lack of self-direction. Here are how a few of the respondents in the study described the feeling:

  • "It's just your kind of very robotic and very, like, there is no meaning or purpose, I guess."
  • "Oh dear, it's a black hole. I guess it's that drowning, you know, drowning."
  • "It's like wind inside a tin can, like you're the tin can."

Meaningless living with no pleasure leaves us with a constant feeling that something is missing. To break out of this destructive cycle, you may consider finding things to look forward to. Here are some questions that can help:

  • What specific thing can make me happy today?
  • What is a simple, achievable target I can set for myself?
  • What can I get rid of that is adding to my stress?

#2. Let the past be

Unprocessed events from our past keep unresolved feelings buried within us. Any overwhelming event, painful childhood memory, or significant loss – when left unexplored – eventually catches up to us.

When we choose to ignore and live in a state of denial, we fuel the void growing within us – deepening our feelings of numbness. A few ways to let go of the history that is holding you back are to:

  • Bring the past to the present and process it in the here and now. Think of your life as 'what it is now' rather than 'what it was at one time.'
  • Keep an open mind. Allow yourself to let go of old beliefs to make space for new ones.
  • Pay gratitude for all of the things that bring you happiness rather than focusing on what has been lost.

It is always advisable to explore your emotions with the guidance of a mental health professional.

#3. Choose to be self-compassionate

For many, taking care of others always comes first. This is fine, unless it causes you to (1) abandon yourself and your hopes and desires or (2) feel guilty and shameful for spending time and effort on your own wants and needs.

One way to restore your sense of self-compassion when you feel overburdened by others who need your support is to practice self-affirmations. Research suggests that simply reminding ourselves of the values we hold dear has a positive impact on our well-being and also protects us against upcoming threats and challenges.

Here are some questions to reflect upon to help you increase your level of self-compassion.

  • How do I treat myself when I don't live up to my expectations?
  • Do I give myself time to engage in activities I like?
  • Do I assert myself and uphold my boundaries?
  • Do I tend to my social, emotional, and physical needs?
  • Do I spend more time on social media comparing myself to others rather than focusing on myself?

Daily self-care activities and little positive reminders for yourself can help you feel less empty.


Not every day will be rainbows and sunshine. But feelings of numbness and emptiness need not last forever. To reverse the cycle, find things to look forward to every day, process and move on from traumatic past experiences, and choose self-compassion over self-criticism.