11 Steps To Take When You Feel Lonely and Depressed
Everyone has experienced feelings of loneliness and depression at some point, with both young and elderly people commonly reporting that they feel isolated and sad.
However, when these feelings become pervasive and seem impossible to shake, this could indicate a long-term problem that needs to be addressed.
The link between loneliness and depression is stronger than many people realise, with a number of studies showing that loneliness increases an individual’s chances of becoming depressed. 
Therefore, it is important to safeguard your mental health and take action if you notice feelings of isolation and sadness beginning to appear.
Why do I feel lonely and depressed?
Feelings of depression and loneliness can occur for many reasons, and it is often difficult to pinpoint a specific incident that may have triggered these emotions.
It’s possible to be surrounded by people and still feel incredibly lonely, particularly when you feel that your current relationships are not as authentic or intimate as you would like them to be. 
Similarly, many people appear to have the ‘perfect life’ when in reality they struggle with feeling depressed and unfulfilled.
Common factors that can make you feel lonely and depressed include:
- Being fired or made redundant
- Moving to a new area, town or country
- Changing schools
- Navigating a global pandemic
- Switching to a new role or job
- Having a child
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Struggling with an addiction
- Battling low self-esteem
- Losing a friend
- Struggling with infertility
- Breaking up with a spouse or partner
- Dealing with the death of a loved one
- Being diagnosed with a physical or mental health condition
No matter what your personal circumstances may be, it’s important to recognise that your feelings are valid and that you have every right to feel this way.
What can I do when I feel lonely and depressed?
There are a number of steps that you can take when you begin to struggle with feelings of depression and loneliness.
Your current emotions and experiences do not have to define your future, and it is possible to break away from negative self-talk and self-destructive mindsets in order to achieve a happier and more fulfilling life.
1. Write down your thoughts
Taking the time to write down your thoughts can help to clear your mind and allow you to organise your emotions and feelings.
Often we can unconsciously hold certain beliefs that are incorrect, such as ‘I don’t deserve a partner’ or ‘I’m worthless because I am overweight.’ Seeing these beliefs written down can help you to spot any patterns of negative self-talk and take steps to change your mindset.
It can also be a relief to unload your burdens on paper, safe in the knowledge that it will never be read or judged by others. You don’t need to write every day if this is too large of a commitment, but even a weekly thought-dumping exercise can work wonders on your mood.
2. Speak to someone you trust
When you’re feeling lonely and depressed, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence.
The expression ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ still rings true to this day, and sharing your thoughts with a trusted friend or family member can help you to feel less alone and may provide a differing view or solution that can change the way you see your situation.
If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of speaking to friends or family, the Samaritans can also provide a supportive and non-judgemental listening ear.
2. Keep a gratitude journal
It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of your life when you’re feeling lonely and depressed, so making a concerted effort to identify positive events and experiences each day can help you to feel grateful for what you currently have.
Try to write down 3-5 things each day that you feel thankful for, whether that’s a new plant for your desk or a roof over your head. These things can be as small or as large as you want, and as you write them down try to focus on that feeling of gratitude and contentment that comes from being thankful.
Over time, your gratitude journal will be filled with positive thoughts and memories that you can look back on when you need a boost of positivity.
3. Volunteer your services
During times that you feel depressed and lonely, stepping outside of yourself to bring joy and assistance to others can lift your mood and bring a sense of purpose and fulfilment to your life. Caring for an elderly neighbour or family member, volunteering at an animal shelter or buying groceries for someone in need are all worthy pursuits that allow you to contribute to something greater than yourself.
Volunteering is also a great way to meet other people who share similar interests and passions, allowing you to build friendships and a sense of community that can help to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation.
4. Take care of yourself
When you’re feeling depressed, even seemingly simple tasks can feel overwhelming and impossible to complete. The thought of cooking a healthy meal or going for a run may make you want to hide in bed and pull the covers over your eyes!
However, taking care of yourself can actually build confidence and increase your quality of life over time. Start small by simply brushing your teeth every day and slowly build up to making your bed, showering and eating a healthy breakfast before going for a morning walk.
These small habits may feel pointless and unimportant at the moment but combined over a period of weeks and months they can increase your mood and make you feel more accomplished in your daily life.
5. Strengthen your relationships
Feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with the quality of your current relationships can lead to the belief that you are lonely and isolated, but many of these issues can be solved by simply strengthening your existing relationships.
Try to identify any current friends and family members that you would like to have a stronger connection with and make an effort to reach out to them. Even a simple conversation can leave you feeling happier and more connected, particularly if you are open and honest about the nature of the relationship you would like to have with them going forward.
6. Reach out online
There are many people who do not feel comfortable associating with others face-to-face, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are one of them, consider joining or building an online community to meet others and discuss your thoughts and feelings without the pressure of anxiety of meeting with them in person.
Forums such as Reddit and Discord allow large, thriving communities to form based on almost any interest or hobby you can think of. The friendships that stem from these groups can be just as rewarding as those formed face-to-face, proving that it is possible to feel connected to others and cultivate lasting friendships without setting foot outside your home.
7. Join a group or club
There’s no better way to develop a sense of community and kinship than by joining a club or team of people, all united in achieving a common goal. This could be a sports club such as a football team, a knitting group or a charitable organisation – anything that you find interesting and could potentially feel passionate about.
Becoming part of a wider group can expand your social circle and allow you to meet like-minded friends, while simultaneously expanding your skills and bringing a spark of variety into your life by shaking up your regular routine.
8. Adopt or foster a pet
If you’re struggling to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning, consider adopting or fostering an animal. Studies have shown that owning a pet can reduce feelings of stress and loneliness while helping you to develop a regular routine and a sense of purpose. 
An animal can help make a house feel like a home and will remind you that you are not alone, while the responsibility that comes with taking care of a pet can create feelings of fulfilment and productivity.
However, it is important to note that it is not recommended to adopt an animal if you will be unable to provide the environment and care that it requires, including the time involved and any financial requirements such as regular vet bills.
9. Develop a new hobby or activity
Similarly to joining a group or a club, developing a hobby or taking up a new activity can provide you with a sense of fulfilment and purpose. This could include learning a new language, joining a public speaking group or discovering that you have a talent for baking.
If this is a social activity you may make friends with others in your class, while a more solitary activity could be expanded upon by joining online groups dedicated to your craft. Either way, simply the act of developing your skills can give you a much-needed boost and open up many doors in the future.
10. Seek professional counselling
In cases of severe depression, the above tips may not be enough to provide long-lasting relief and professional help should be sought. In the UK it is possible to obtain therapy on the NHS, however, the waiting lists are often extremely long with many people waiting months for treatment.
If your budget allows it, private counselling sessions are an effective way to manage feelings of depression and loneliness with therapists trained to provide guidance and support along with practical tips to improve and balance your mental health.
Specialist techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) have been proven to be effective at treating symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it is important to consider these options when you are struggling with your mental health.