How can I stop feeling so sad and lonely?

If you’re feeling sad and lonely, it can be difficult to feel that there’s any way to get help - and even more so to understand how you can help yourself. The Mix investigates whether you can beat depression and anxiety through exercise and other methods.

A group of young people celebrating outside. In the forefront is a young woman smiling with colourful eyeshadow, stood by her a young woman with sunglasses on.

Feeling lonely and isolated can be very upsetting and overwhelming, and if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety then it can be impossible to see the way out of how you’re feeling. But you don’t have to be alone, and there are steps that you can take to get help to stop feeling sad and lonely.

Talk to somebody about it

Emotions can seem so overwhelming it may feel difficult to express them to others. But, it may be worth considering if there is someone you could talk to, for example, a friend or family member. People often find that sharing their feelings can help.

Sometimes people find it easier to speak to someone they don’t know. If you’d like to talk to someone else about how you’ve been feeling in confidence you can call:

  • Youth 2 Youth on 020 8896 3675; they provide caring support and advice. If you would prefer, they are also offer confidential support through online chat and by email
  • The Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day, on 08457 90 90 90
  • If you are still at school or college there might be a student support officer or a counsellor you could speak to about how you have been feeling

All of us are unique, so getting better could involve trying a mixture of different types of approach like talking therapy, CBT and medication. So it’s important to discuss feelings of depression and anxiety with your GP too.

Invest time in yourself and your hobbies

Investing some time in yourself, thinking about the kind of interests you have, what you enjoy doing, or activities you would like to get involved with. From there, you could find out about local clubs or organisations you could join, such as:

  • local sports teams
  • book clubs
  • music clubs
  • college societies

Meet new people

Getting involved with a local organisation, or charity, by volunteering is an excellent way of developing both your social and work skills, meeting new people and gaining experience that could benefit your studies or career ambitions.

The internet is a gateway to meeting new people with similar interests, so you might want to consider using it to your advantage. There are chatrooms and discussion boards that cater for many types of people, so it might be worth investigating. Also, don’t forget that you can meet people through The Mix’s discussion boards.

Exercise to help with depression

Sorting your head out is rarely just about changing one thing in your life, so it follows just exercise alone won’t be some kind of magic cure. But there are some good reasons it could help. Here’s how.

Exercise is thought to increase the levels of endorphins, serotonin, and other chemical messengers in your brain and generally put you in a better mood. It also increases blood flow to the brain and causes our muscles to relax, making it easier to sleep – and sleep is a key factor in dealing with life generally.

Getting a fitter body can boost your self-confidence and make you feel better about yourself.
We know it’s hard to drag yourself away from the revision timetable, but exercise could really help if you’re in brain-melt mode over an exam. It will clear your head and calm you down – there’s even evidence it might improve your brain’s performance.

How does exercise help mental health?

There have been loads of studies into how and why exercise is thought to be good for depression. A review of some studies shows that there IS evidence exercise can help young people with depressionand feeling sad or lonely, but that we still don’t really know WHY some people feel better after exercise.

“Studies strongly show exercise can help prevent depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Wilby Williamson. “Exercise is also used as a treatment. Reasons include the fact that it helps you relax and clear your head, reducing stress in the short term and so helping you develop better coping mechanisms for the long term. But it needs to be part of an overall management plan.”

“Setting goals, structured activity and routine – all associated with sport – can help improve self esteem by giving you a focus and making you feel proud of yourself when it all goes right,” adds Dr. Wilby.

Types of exercise you could try to help with depression

There’s no clear guidance on how much exercise is best for helping depression or anxiety, but we do know that to feel any benefit you need to exercise regularly. If you’re not naturally inclined towards exercise, there are some milder forms that you might enjoy which can help when you’re feeling sad or lonely:

Cycling: You get to be outside, plus you can incorporate it into your daily routine such as cycling to school or to a friend’s house – this makes travel free too!

Dancing: OK so it’s not outdoors, but going for it on the dance floor with your friends gives you an amazing work out (remember alcohol is a depressant, so if you have to be plastered to bring out those killer moves, this is the wrong ‘sport’ for you).

Walking fast: Speed up your walk to the point where you’re getting sweaty, puffed and red in the face for about 20 minutes. Force your mates to keep up with you.

Jogging apps: Some apps help you plan jogging routes, log your progress and share your achievements. You can run in secret, but still feel connected to a bigger group of like-minded people through your phone.

It is understandable if you feel nervous about trying any of these suggestions, but they might be worth considering as a way of boosting your confidence and more importantly, to do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Next Steps

  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 27-Mar-2021