Feeling sad is something that happens to all of us. Your football team loses, you fall out with a friend, or something much worse happens, and it can feel like a smile is a distant memory. But what is sadness, and what actually happens to us when we feel sad? 

What does serotonin do? 

So this tricky little neurotransmitter in our brains is what is responsible for us feeling sad, called serotonin. A neurotransmitter essentially carries signals around our brain that controls how we feel. So, serotonin’s job is to deliver emotions and carry messages about our mood, and it’s often labelled as the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. It also transmits signals which help wounds to heal, and which help our digestive system to function normally.

We all have an evolutionary response to stuff that happens with us, to fight, flight or freeze. Serotonin is responsible for the freeze response in humans.

So, this is why we get depression? 

There is a definite link between low serotonin levels and sadness and depression. But having less serotonin doesn’t always mean you get depression. The brains of teenagers typically have a little less serotonin than adults, which means it’s harder to process emotions, and which is probably why we all feel a bit crap when we’re teenagers. 

Why do we want to increase it? 

Even though it might seem like we don’t have a huge amount of control over what goes in our brains at times, increasing serotonin levels is important if we have a deficiency given its link to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Doing things to naturally boost serotonin will boost our general mood and having good levels of serotonin also means we literally heal from wounds faster, so it’s basically a super power. 

It’s important to know though that being sad, or feeling the effects of depression, is not a sign of weakness. If you need to talk to someone, reach out to our community here for free confidential support and advice. 

How do we do it then? 

  • Exercise every day – it boosts serotonin in your brain and some studies have demonstrated that exercise is at least equally effective at increasing available serotonin as serotonin-enhancing medications
  • Get your gut healthy – Much of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut 
  • Watch what you eat – Foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, typically increase insulin levels and allow more tryptophan (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) to enter the brain, where the brain cells can convert it to serotonin. 
  • Light – some research suggests that serotonin tends to be lower after winter and higher in summer and fall. Serotonin’s known impact on mood helps support a link between this finding and the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder and mental health concerns linked to the seasons.

Want to know more? Here’s some things you should definitely be reading right now!

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Unfortunately, it has happened to every woman you know. 97% of women and girls of all ages have been publicly harassed in the UK. Street sexual harassment can be a really scary and intimidating experience for women of any age, but because it happens so often, we might not feel like it’s even worth talking about. 

We want that to change, and for everyone to start talking about this more so that steps can be taken for it to finally stop.

What can you do if it happens to you?

Think about your personal safety first

Street harassment can be really intimidating. Unfortunately, because it is not illegal in the UK, if you react aggressively or violently, it would be you that would end up in trouble. Think about your safety first and foremost and what you can do in this situation to ensure you get where you are going safely. If it helps you feel more comfortable, carry a personal safety alarm, and a torch whenever you go out after dark.

If you feel like the situation is escalating, call someone you know in the area to come and meet you, or even call the police and give a description of who is harassing you. 

Call a friend as soon as it starts

If you are on the phone to someone, it becomes clearer to the perpetrator that you are not a target, and could stop them from escalating the situation. Don’t make the call through headphones so you can also stay aware of what is going on around you. 

Talk to someone about it when you get where you are going 

Whether you are going to school, going to a friends house or going home, talk to someone about what you experienced when you reach your destination. Not only will it make them aware that there are potentially dangerous people on that route and can offer support for the walk in the future, but it will also give you the support you need. 

Have an open conversation about what you experienced, especially with the guys in your life 

The conversation around street harassment has always been that it should be women who take steps to protect themselves, rather than on guys not actually harassing women. This is where the problem lies and until women feel like they can openly discuss their experiences and guys start to listen and change their behaviour, the problem will continue.

Try sitting down with some of the guys in your life and tell them how this experience made you feel. The goal here is not to get sympathy, or make them angry or feel attacked, but to have an open and honest conversation about what needs to change. If just one person changes how they act, that’s a win for everyone. 

Report it to the police 

Even though street harassment is not illegal in the UK, reporting the incident to the police could help it become an offence in the future. If they receive enough reports, it makes the authorities aware that this is an issue in the area and is making residents feel unsafe. The perpetrator may be known to the police, and if the police decide to follow up with them, it could stop them from doing it to someone else.

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  • Feeling alone
    I don't really know why but I've been feeling alone and depressed lately. It's not like I'm alone alone but it feels like I am (idk if that makes any sense or not) I talk to people all the time but I don't really want to talk to them if you know what I mean. […]
  • Depressed
    Today I feel like rubbish. Not suicidal just had enough of life. Tired as fuck. Does anyone else feel the pain 😔😞😪😕💔😢
  • What are you dressing up as for hallowen?
    What is everyone going to be for halloween?
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    kick off Watford vs Liverpool up the reds #YNWA come on liverpoollll offside oops 🙃 goallllllllll tooooooo liverpolllllllllllllllllll lets gooooooooooooooooooo
  • liverpool play today and PL starts again
    here's who's playing - watford v Liverpool Southampton v Leeds United Norwhich city v Brighton Aston Villa v Wolves Lecister City v Man United Man City v Burnley Brentford v Chelsea

It’s funny how we can share our progress pics from the gym on Insta without a second thought, but we rarely share our emotional progress with each other. As a society, we’re not talking about mental health enough. We’re taught to look after our bodies in a million different ways but nothing is said about our emotional wellbeing because, well, “out of sight, out of mind” right?!

The team here at Ditch HQ have put together this list of nifty ways to keep track of your mental health:

1. Log

This genius calendar is a fun and creative way to track your moods throughout the year. You simply fill in each day with the colour that most corresponds to your mood. Once the year is up, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you’ve been feeling on the whole.

Let’s hope it’s predominantly pink 😊 but let’s face it, we all have the occasional ‘red’ day…

2. Track

If graphing is your thing, you can make some awesome looking graphs to track your mood, sleep, diet, self-care and medication. There are also lots of apps available such as Daylio or Moods. The trick is to get creative! Check this out for ideas:

3. Write

Keeping a written log of how you’re feeling is invaluable to your emotional wellbeing. There are some things we simply can’t say out loud but writing them down is the perfect way to get those feelings out in the open. It doesn’t have to be in beautiful prose or perfect handwriting. In fact, you’ll probably even find that your writing will change according to your mood.

4. List

  • List what makes you sad
  • List what makes you happy
  • List what you’re grateful for
  • List the things you’re worried about
  • List the things that are going well for you
  • List the things that aren’t going so well for you
  • List the people that you love
  • Make a bucket list
  • List some self-care goals

5. Blog

If writing lists are not your thing, why not start a blog? You can keep it private if you’d rather but you’ll probably find that lots of people feel the same way as you and it’s a fantastic way to look back over recent events and see how you’ve dealt with them. Plus, you can make them look awesome to boot, try WordPress or Tumblr for easy-to-use blogging sites!

6. Vlog

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be the next Zoella! In fact, you don’t even need to upload it for all to see but if blogging’s not for you, why not just spout all your feelings in video format? In doing so, you’re actively connecting with the way that you feel and talking it out. You’ll probably feel really silly to begin with, but it gets easier and soon you’ll be a pro – give it a try, we dare you! If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a camera, why not just record your voice on your phone and start your own personal private podcast?

7. Create

Get creative. Creativity is proven to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. Even if you’re not ‘arty’ in the conventional sense, everybody should have a creative outlet. Be it music, cooking, building, painting, dancing, sewing… Do your creative thing once a week and look back at the progress at the end of the year. You’re guaranteed to feel accomplished and creative outlets are great for relaxation too!

8. Mind Journal

If you’re a guy and struggling to find an outlet that you feel comfortable with, you could try MindJournal. It’s widely recognised that thinking and writing about feelings doesn’t come as easily to guys, but the MindJournal is designed to help with just that. Don’t worry if this idea feels a little intimidating, it eases you in with questions to get you started. Plus, if you find it tough to express your emotions to others, this may be the perfect place for you release them.

9. Share

Chances are, you’ve got some friends who want to keep track of their mental health too. Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 people have a mental health issue. Try creating a group chat/WhatsApp group that is a safe space for you all to talk about your well-being. Sharing your problems, worries and wins is really beneficial and so is listening to other people’s. It will help you to open up, helps get rid of the stigma, strengthens friendships and relationships, helps others with their wellbeing and opens up a much-needed dialogue about mental health. Be the one to make it happen!

Wanna talk about it? Join our Community to get help from an amazing DTL digital mentor or talk it out with other members of the community who know where it’s at…

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  • Feeling alone
    I don't really know why but I've been feeling alone and depressed lately. It's not like I'm alone alone but it feels like I am (idk if that makes any sense or not) I talk to people all the time but I don't really want to talk to them if you know what I mean. […]
  • Depressed
    Today I feel like rubbish. Not suicidal just had enough of life. Tired as fuck. Does anyone else feel the pain 😔😞😪😕💔😢
  • What are you dressing up as for hallowen?
    What is everyone going to be for halloween?
  • premier league
    kick off Watford vs Liverpool up the reds #YNWA come on liverpoollll offside oops 🙃 goallllllllll tooooooo liverpolllllllllllllllllll lets gooooooooooooooooooo
  • liverpool play today and PL starts again
    here's who's playing - watford v Liverpool Southampton v Leeds United Norwhich city v Brighton Aston Villa v Wolves Lecister City v Man United Man City v Burnley Brentford v Chelsea

It may feel like happiness is out of reach and impossible right now. But it is always within reach. There are proven scientific ways that can help bring your mood to it’s happiest level and help you become a happier person.

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

Whether it’s because things haven’t quite gone your way, you’re feeling down in the dumps or just need a little happiness boost, here’s 15 sure-fire ways to get you back on that happy train, boost your mood and become a happier person.


1. Gratitude

Look, we get it. There’s a lot of bad in the world, but there’s also a ton of good. Psychologists say that by reminding yourself of the good things regularly, you’ll actually lift your overall mood. Everybody approaches gratitude in different ways, but we recommend writing down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day inside a gratitude diary. Doing this, over time, will generally train your mindset to be happier and healthier.

2. Treat yourself

Be kind and gentle to yourself. Acknowledge your achievements and celebrate your victories – no matter how big or how small they may be. Whether your treat is a cinema date with your bestie, a shopping haul or a long soak in the bath with a chilled playlist, make sure you practice regular self-care and do things that you enjoy.

3. Surround yourself with good people

Your vibe attracts your tribe and vice versa. We really are who we surround ourselves with and it’s amazing just how influential the people we allow into our lives actually are over our mood and mental wellbeing. If we’re surrounded by negative people, that negativity is going to get passed on! Hang out with people who make you feel good!

4. Get Silly

Try not to take yourself too seriously. We all need a good amount of fun in our lives, it’s what keeps us going. Access your silly side for a while, we guarantee you’ll feel better after clowning around for a bit. That old saying about laughter being the greatest medicine… it really is.

5. Get mindful

Mindfulness and meditation are tools that you can use to build more discipline over your mind and regulation of your emotions. Allocating just 15-minutes a day to building up your practice can truly be transformational in improving your overall wellbeing. There are tons of guides available online, including some guided meditations on the Ditch the Label YouTube channel.

6. Be nicer

When we’re nicer to other people, we feel better about ourselves. We’re not just saying that, like, it’s an actual scientific fact. Helping other people really does raise our spirits. Set yourself a daily goal of at least one selfless act and you’ll seen feel the difference.

7. Smile more

When you get on the bus, smile at the driver. When you pay for your lunch, smile at the shopkeeper. When you see someone in the street, smile at them too! Studies have shown that smiling actually does make us feel happier and smiling is also incredibly contagious.


8. Don’t hold grudges

Grudges are bad for your body and your mind. Holding a grudge means you’re stopping yourself from moving forward. Think of a grade like holding on to a ball of fire with the intention of throwing it at somebody else — you’re the only one getting burnt. Let. It. Go. If you need help doing this, try searching “forgiveness meditation” on YouTube for a push in the right direction. Similarly, if you’ve done something wrong, just say sorry! you’ll feel 100% better for doing it!

9. Have Realistic Expectations

The people that tell you they’re happy all the time, or post the most amazing, joyous content on social media are lying to you. It is completely unrealistic to be happy all of the time, but if you’re able to feel happy, say, 15% of the time – then you’re on to a winner. Most of the time we’re pretty neutral and we mustn’t see negative emotions as a bad thing, because they are all essential components of the human psyche.

10. Have a digital detox every once in a while

Social media makes us doubt ourselves. It can make us feel inadequate and leaves us feeling like we’re not good enough. Take a break, get some perspective and turn it off for a while.

11. Do what you love

Don’t let fear of being laughed at stop you from doing what you love. Find what you’re good at, find what you enjoy and do it until you’re an expert.

12. Get active

When we exercise, it releases endorphins: more commonly known as ‘feel good hormones’. Getting in some regular exercise, at least 3 hours a week can make the world of difference. Exercise can be anything from playing sport, a gym-workout, running around with your dog, or even a brisk walk or jog.

13. Get enough sleep

Our mood is heavily affected by how much sleep we get. Make sure you’re consistently getting around 8 hours of sleep every night. You’ll feel healthier and happier for doing it!

14. Dance

Studies have shown that dancing connects with the emotional centres in the brain promoting an emotional release. This, coupled with the endorphins our bodies produce when we get our hearts pumping make dancing the perfect recipe for that happiness boost that you’re after.

15. Don’t hold back

Finally, don’t let anyone stop you from being 100% you. We’re at our happiest when we’re comfortable and relaxed, we can’t be these things if we’re always pretending to be someone that we’re not – love yourself.


Wanna talk about it?

If you’re feeling low and want to talk to someone who gets it, join the Ditch the Label community:

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  • Feeling alone
    I don't really know why but I've been feeling alone and depressed lately. It's not like I'm alone alone but it feels like I am (idk if that makes any sense or not) I talk to people all the time but I don't really want to talk to them if you know what I mean. […]
  • Depressed
    Today I feel like rubbish. Not suicidal just had enough of life. Tired as fuck. Does anyone else feel the pain 😔😞😪😕💔😢
  • What are you dressing up as for hallowen?
    What is everyone going to be for halloween?
  • premier league
    kick off Watford vs Liverpool up the reds #YNWA come on liverpoollll offside oops 🙃 goallllllllll tooooooo liverpolllllllllllllllllll lets gooooooooooooooooooo
  • liverpool play today and PL starts again
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coffee

Coming out to your parents as lesbian, gay or bisexual naturally brings up a lot of questions. How will they react? Will it change anything? Can I say it without getting upset? How should I say it? When is the best time?

Telling your parents is much bigger than them simply knowing your orientation. It is about you owning your sexuality and having the courage to say ‘this is who I am’ and not living in secret any more.

If your parents are homophobic, you may want to check out this article instead.


Here are 9 tips to help you get there:

Everything that you need to think about when you are coming out.

1. First reactions are unpredictable.

When coming out to your parents whether they suspect anything or not, this is the first time they are hearing this news. You have had months or even years to come to a place of acceptance and being ready to share it. They only just found out so remember first reactions are not always lasting reactions and they will need time to process this information.

2. Determine whether this is the right time.

It is crucial that you take the time to consider your own personal circumstances when making the decision to come out to your parents. What might be the right thing for one person, may not be right for you. Your safety and wellbeing should always come first.

3. You don’t have to tell them both at the same time.

If there is one parent you are more nervous about telling, you don’t have to tell them together. Start with the parent you feel safer talking to. You’ll know if it’s best to tell them separately or together so trust your instincts.

4. Pick a good time and place.

This news deserves your parent’s full attention. So make sure you choose a time that won’t be interrupted and in a place that feels comfortable for you. You are in control of this situation and its key you feel as comfortable as possible. There may also never be “the perfect time,” and if there is one, you might lose your nerve and let the opportunity pass – that’s okay, don’t sweat it if that happens and try again.

5. Be clear about who they can tell.

This one can easily be overlooked as you will be so relieved at finally telling them, that its natural to forget to be clear what you want to happen next. Decide beforehand whether you are comfortable with them sharing the news of your coming out with your family or if you want it kept between you for the time being – be clear about that.

6. Their approval or permission is not required.

Try not to expect too much from your parents and wherever possible, avoid measuring the success of the conversation by their initial response. If it’s not what you hoped for, don’t despair or give up. They may just need more time. This isn’t about them. It’s about you and who you truly are. Show them that you are the same person they’ve always loved, just more honest now.

7. Questions are ok.

One concern can be a barrage of questions, especially knowing the answers can sometimes be awkward and uncomfortable. Don’t stress yourself out trying to think of every answer ahead of time. Questions from your parents are natural (but don’t feel pressured into answering things you aren’t comfortable with) and whether you have answers or not just be as honest as you can.

8. Help educate them. 🌈

Whatever reaction your parents have; good, bad or ugly, suggest they have a look at these organisations: FFLAG and BeLongTo;  They are dedicated to supporting parents of lesbian, gay or bisexual sons and daughters and have a wealth of resources nationwide. It will help educate them on all things LGB and give them the opportunity to speak to other parents for advice.

9. Talk to us.

Coming out to your parents is a big deal full stop. Even parents who have the best intentions will frequently get it wrong and say something unintentionally offensive and hurtful.

Everyone’s experience is different so whether you are on the brink of doing it, have done it but are struggling or just need some support with it all, join our community to talk to one of our awesome mentors who understand completely what you are going through and get advice from others who have similar experiences…

If you would prefer the easy to read version please click here.

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  • ugly
    i asked one of my friend to be extremely honest w me abt my appearance and he said that i wasn’t very pretty and that kind of broke me bc it’s like adding up yk w the other stuff that people have said, i’m lowkey embarrassed not gonna lie
  • Feeling alone
    I don't really know why but I've been feeling alone and depressed lately. It's not like I'm alone alone but it feels like I am (idk if that makes any sense or not) I talk to people all the time but I don't really want to talk to them if you know what I mean. […]
  • Depressed
    Today I feel like rubbish. Not suicidal just had enough of life. Tired as fuck. Does anyone else feel the pain 😔😞😪😕💔😢
  • What are you dressing up as for hallowen?
    What is everyone going to be for halloween?
  • premier league
    kick off Watford vs Liverpool up the reds #YNWA come on liverpoollll offside oops 🙃 goallllllllll tooooooo liverpolllllllllllllllllll lets gooooooooooooooooooo
  • liverpool play today and PL starts again
    here's who's playing - watford v Liverpool Southampton v Leeds United Norwhich city v Brighton Aston Villa v Wolves Lecister City v Man United Man City v Burnley Brentford v Chelsea