How To Be Sad with Helen Russell
Season 5 #5 Julia Samuel

Season 5 #5 Julia Samuel

August 3, 2022

Julia Samuel MBE is a psychotherapist, grief counsellor, and author of the bestsellers Griefworks, This Too Shall Pass. She was also one of my favourite interviewees for my book, How To Be Sad when we talked about family and relationships. With four children of her own and nine grandchildren, Julia began exploring her own family stories in adulthood and looking at how Every Family Has A Story – the title of her new book. Here, we talk about:


  • Inherited trauma and why family stories matter
  • Bias and how to overcome it
  • why pain is an agent of change
  • how family teaches us about love
  • attachment theory
  • rupture and repair
  • The pros and cons of Zoom therapy

Every Family Has A Story is out now, and you can follow Julia @juliasamuelmbe

How To Be Sad, the key to a happier life is out in paperback and as an audiobook, read by me – and if you enjoyed this episode, give it 5 stars and I’ll love you forever.

Thanks as ever to Matt Clacher at HarperCollins and Joel Grove for production.

Season 5 #4 Rosie Wilby

Season 5 #4 Rosie Wilby

July 27, 2022

Rosie Wilby is a comedian, podcaster and author of The Breakup Monologues – about the unexpected joy of heartbreak and all we can learn from it. BBC Radio 4 described her as the ‘queen of breakups’ (what an accolade!) so she was the perfect guest for a chat about how to be sad, well. Here, we talk about:


- Break up grief

- …but how we get over it twice as quickly as we predict

- Friendship breakups

- Why divorce rates for gay women are so high

- Boredom in long-term relationships

- Cheating blackbirds…

- SSRIs and ‘anti-love drugs’

- Hormones and attraction

- Separate bed stigma

- Monogamy: pros and cons

- Finding love – and getting married!


Follow Rosie on Twitter @and Instagram @breakupmonologues and check out The Breakup Monologues here. And for more on my own long (long) and illustrious history of disastrous breakups, may I nudge you towards chapters 4 and 6 of How To Be Sad…! As ever, I so appreciate your feedback and reviews so keep them coming. Until next time x


Season 5 #3 Marcus Buckingham

Season 5 #3 Marcus Buckingham

July 20, 2022

At a time when many of us are rethinking our work, searching for meaning and connection post pandemic, I wanted to speak to someone about the part work plays in our emotional life. So today we explore the connection between love and work with Marcus Buckingham, a leading expert in the world of work. British born, US bases, Marcus shares his research into how school can stifle our emotions and idioyncracies as well as his personal journey (plus his experience of the US college admissions scandal).  We talk about:


  • Why work is making us ‘bad’ sad
  • What to do about it
  • Finding our ‘red threads’
  • Why feedback is overrated
  • Public speaking as an introvert
  • The dangers of pathologising
  • How we are all a category of one.

Marcus’s new book, Love + Work is out now, and you can follow Marcus @marcusbuckingham

How To Be Sad, the key to a happier life is out in paperback and as an audiobook, read by me – and if you enjoyed this episode, give it 5 stars and I’ll love you forever.

Thanks as ever to Matt Clacher at HarperCollins and Joel Grove for production.

Season 5 #2 Cally Beaton

Season 5 #2 Cally Beaton

July 13, 2022


Cally Beaton was working as a senior TV exec until she was 45, when the late great Joan Rivers told her she should try stand-up. So she did. Now a successful comedian – you’ll have seen her on shows like QI and on The Apprentice You’re Fired – Cally’s nonetheless out to challenge the ageism she sees around her in the industry…an industry Cally admits she was a part of creating. She worked on MTV’s The Real World, one of the first reality shows, back in the early 90s and then later on Geordie Shore and Ex on the Beach in previous life as a television executive. She says now: ‘It’s fair to say I was a big part of the problem now biting me in the arse.’ Here, we talk about:


- Ageism

- Profound change

- Breaking down and building back up

- The u-shaped happiness curve

- Invisibility

- Imposter-offs

- Asking for help

- …and how there’s no prizes for styling it out


For more of the brilliant Cally, check out her live dates and follow her @callybeaton


In this episode, I bang on about Robin Ince’s books again. They’re all brilliant (and he’s interviewed in my latest book, How To Be Sad but the one I’m talking about here is I’m A Joke And So Are You – highly recommend!

Season 5 #1 Emma Kennedy

Season 5 #1 Emma Kennedy

July 6, 2022

My guest today began performing at Oxford with Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. She trained as a solicitor before moving into writing, presenting, acting, stand up and…pretty much everything. She’s won a Chortle Award, she was ‘Fun’ Editor at Tatler, Celebrity Masterchef Champion and – most importantly –runner up at the World Conker championship. Described in the Independent as TV’s Swiss army knife - Emma Kennedy is also the author of a remarkable new book, Letters from Brenda - a painful, funny record of Emma’s relationship with her complex, charismatic mum, Brenda, who died of breast cancer. Revisiting her mother’s letters has also allowed Emma to process a difficult childhood and the letters chart her mother’s struggles with mental health.


TW: suicide, cancer

In this episode we talk about:

  • mental health
  • generational trauma
  • acts of service
  • the power of dogs
  • …and Lego
  • …and comedy

Letters From Brenda is out now, and you can follow Emma @EmmaKennedy

My book, How To Be Sad, the key to a happier life is out in paperback and as an audiobook – and if you enjoyed this episode, give it 5 stars and leave a review and I’ll love you forever.

Season 5 Trailer: The Best of (So Far!)

Season 5 Trailer: The Best of (So Far!)

June 29, 2022

Sadness happens to all of us, but in much of the world we don’t know how to handle it. Let alone talk about it. Having spent 10 years researching into happiness worldwide as a journalist and author, I began to notice that many of the people I met were so obsessed with the pursuit of happiness that they were phobic of feeling sad. As was I. 


So why are we so bad at ‘sad’? 

How is there still shame around expressing vulnerability? 

And are there some any ‘good’ things about being sad?


I couldn’t find anywhere people were having these kinds of conversations - so I started my own. 


Each episode, I’m joined by a special guest sharing their own experiences of how to be sad, well with insightful and surprisingly uplifting stories of lives lived. Here are some of the highlights so far, ahead of series five, launching next week:

- From S3E8 with Kate Bowler, NYT bestselling author and Duke history professor on being diagnosed with colon cancer at just 35 years old, navigating life with the knowledge it could end any moment, ‘emotional tourism’, bucket lists and why Kate won’t be making one. TW: cancer

-  From S1E7 with Yomi Adegoke, award-winning journalist and bestselling co-author of Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible on how being sad and expressing grief can be political and the perils of performing our emotions online.

- From S4E1 with Emily Dean, author of Everyone Died So I Got A Dog, radio presenter and podcaster on family roles and the different pressures these bring.

- From S4E2 where bestselling author Mitch Albom shares a little known story about how the bestseller Tuesdays With Morrie came about.

- From S3E5 with Dr Julie Smith, clinical psychologist and former NHS turned TikTok star and author of Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? on what happens when we push emotions away, how the stakes get higher the longer we stay in ‘the trap’, and what we should be doing instead.

-  From S2E5 with Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, the global support network for childless women on unhelpful cultural ideas around not having children, disenfranchised grief and how to heal it. TW: grief, childlessness not by choice, IVF 

- From S4E1 with Emily Dean, on how to support someone who’s grieving. TW: sibling bereavement

- From S1E4 with Mo Gawdat, Solve For Happy author, tech entrepreneur and former chief business officer for Google X on how life is like a video game (and this is A Good Thing). TW: losing a child

- From S4E2 Mitch Albom on the pain of losing his daughter and the impact this had on his marriage. Plus why happiness isn’t a guarantee: it’s a gift that can help us to be sad, better. TW: losing a child

You can find all the books we talk about on the How To Be Sad podcast recommends page at where you can also find the book, How To Be Sad, now in paperback.

Keep in touch @MsHelenRussell and subscribe to join us next time. Because remember: we’re all in this together.

Season 4 #7 Whitney Goodman

Season 4 #7 Whitney Goodman

March 2, 2022

Whitney Goodman is the radically honest psychotherapist behind the hugely popular Instagram account @sitwithwhit and the author of Toxic Positivity – something she describes ‘as a form of gaslighting’. Here, she explains how meeting struggles with platitudes can shut us down, make us feel shame, or even that we are no longer allowed to feel at all. I wanted to speak to Whitney now, more than ever, at a time when the world is experiencing so much hurt that the idea of burying our heads in the sand and just ‘looking on the bright side’ feels unfathomable. So forget ‘good vibes only’, we’re here for ALL the vibes as we talk about:


  • exaggerated claims about positive thinking
  • happiness and health: causation vs coronation
  • the physical impact of suppressing our emotions
  • the shame spiral
  • why we don’t always have to be grateful
  • how ‘manifesting’ can be damaging
  • when affirmations don’t work
  • toxic positivity and discrimination
  • radical acceptance and how to reach it
  • why we’re more creative and more successful when we face up to problems


Follow Whitney @sitwithwhit on Instagram and Twitter, and check out her new book Toxic Positivity.


Share your thoughts on social media @MsHelenRussell and if you’d like more, the paperback of How To Be Sad is out now - wherever you get your books.


Thanks as ever to Joel Grove for production and Matt Clacher at HarperCollins – and I would love it if you could rate, review, subscribe, share, tell anyone who might need to hear this so that we can spread the message: feeling ALL our feelings is OK.  

Season 4 #6 Laura Friedman Williams

Season 4 #6 Laura Friedman Williams

February 23, 2022

My guest today met her husband when she was 19. Three kids and 27 years later, he fell in love with another woman. For several months after finding out, she did little aside from scrape herself off the floor and care for her kids, through their misery and her own. She says of this time: ‘I felt like I was either going to die or learn how to live again’. Laura chose life – as well as learning to sit with pain as a lifelong optimist. Laura Friedman Williams is my guest today - the author of Available: A Memoir of Sex and Dating After a Marriage Ends.


Here, we talk about:


  • Feeling invisible
  • Losing the future we planned
  • The shame problem
  • Learning to grieve
  • Being ‘good enough’
  • What family means now
  • Starting over (& ‘sex treadmills’)

Follow Laura @laurafriedmanwilliams on Instagram or @LauraFWInNYC on Twitter and Available: A Memoir of Sex and Dating After a Marriage Ends is out now.

My book, How To Be Sad – the key to a happier life – is now out in paperback wherever you get your books. Get in touch @MsHelenRussell and or


Thanks to Joel Grove and Matt Clacher at HarperCollins for production.

Season 4 #5 Tova Leigh

Season 4 #5 Tova Leigh

February 16, 2022

Tova Leigh is a writer and performer with a global community of 1.6m fans worldwide. Born in Israel, where she practised as a lawyer, Tova moved to the UK to study acting before becoming a household name with her hilarious and honest takes on parenthood, marriage, body confidence and sex. Through her Amazon Prime documentary Mom Life Crisis, bestselling books and podcast, she speaks with frankness and vulnerability about the pressures of modern life as well as ‘the crisis’ years that many of us will face and the normal sadness of just being human.

Here, we talk about:

-       ‘The crisis’ and losing your identity

-       Overcoming fear

-       How to have a difficult conversation (spoiler: have it more than once)

-       hiding our true selves when we’re younger 

-       social media and mental health

-       monogamy and other myths

-       how to be sexual in your 40s

-       secrets, confessions and shame 

Follow Tova on Instagram @tova_leigh or Facebook @mythoughtsaboutstuff

Follow Helen @MsHelenRussell and the book, How To Be Sad is out now IN PAPERBACK!

Thanks to Joel Grove for production and Matt Clacher at HarperCollins.

Reviews really help others find us and help us to make more episodes – and you can email the show with any issues you’d like us to cover or guests you’d like to hear more of on

Season 4 #4 Mark Rice-Oxley

Season 4 #4 Mark Rice-Oxley

February 9, 2022

From the outside, life looked great for Mark Rice-Oxley - an editor on a national newspaper – The Guardian - with a happy marriage and three children. But in 2009, he suffered a major episode of depression that took him away from his work, leaving him reliant on medication and professional help for months. He wrote about his experiences in Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression and Recovery and says now: life is not a linear chart that goes up. It’s a messy scatter graph of moments and experiences, some joyful, others painful. Here, we talk about:

  • preconceptions about mental illness
  • triggers and burnout
  • being ‘good enough’
  • prevention vs cure
  • psychological flexibility
  • the joys of hobbies (& singing whenever possible…)


Follow Mark @markriceoxley69 on Twitter, see more of his work at


Follow Helen on social media @MsHelenRussell and the paperback of How To Be Sad is out now - or wherever you get your books.


Thanks as ever to Joel Grove for production and Matt Clacher at HarperCollins – and if you like the podcast, rate, review and subscribe so you never miss an episode.


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