Charlotte Brontë, a British novelist whose novels have become standards of English literature, is quoted as having said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” There are perhaps many people in the world today who could echo Brontë’s sentiments concerning being lonely. Whether they are rich, poor, married, widowed, divorced, or single, there are those who seem to be hopelessly and eternally trapped in an abyss called loneliness.

Heinrich Karl Bukowski, a German-born, American poet, novelist and short story writer, once described loneliness in the world as being “so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock.” And T.S. Eliot, “one of the twentieth century’s major poets,” said,

Any decent society must generate a feeling of community. Community offsets loneliness. It gives people a vitally necessary sense of belonging. Yet today the institutions on which community depends are crumbling in all the techno-societies. The result is a spreading plague of loneliness.

How to Cope with Loneliness

A Wiki article titled “How to Deal with Loneliness” describes three methods of coping with loneliness. The first method is to learn how to enjoy solitude. Though a person might think that they are the same, solitude differs from loneliness. Whereas loneliness is when a person is unhappy to be alone, solitude is when a person is happy to be alone. A major part of enjoying solitude involves a person learning to balance the time that he spends helping others and the time that he has for himself. When he spends a majority of his time helping others, he often neglects himself. The article suggests that if a person is experiencing a period of loneliness, he should take advantage of that time and do some of the things that he enjoys doing for himself. Other ways that a person can enjoy solitude include working out and taking care of his body, learning a new skill, and doing something that he has always dreamed of doing, but never seemed to have the time.

Feeling Lonely Mormon
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The second method is to learn how to comfort oneself. The first step in this method involves a person coming to the realization that he is not alone. Everyone experiences periods of loneliness, especially during major life transitions when things are going in a new direction and changing for the better, and they are looking for people who share their new found interests and ideas. The article also suggests looking for “activities that interest you and that also involve groups of people like book clubs, church groups, political campaigns, concerts and art exhibitions.” [1] And, “don’t attend functions with the sole idea of making friends or meeting people. Try to go with no expectations whatsoever and to enjoy yourself regardless of what happens.” [1] Other ways that a person can learn to comfort himself is by keeping busy and not dwelling on how alone he feels, doing activities by himself and realizing that people do not necessarily assume that he has no friends simply because he is alone (sometimes people do things alone in order to capture some quality “me” time), and considering getting and caring for a pet (winning the trust and affection of an animal can be a deeply rewarding experience).

The third method discussed in the article is learning how to be social again. Sometimes when people are desperately lonely, it becomes easy for them to crawl into their shell and become secluded. The article suggests that one of the ways for a person to start anew in the social areas of his life is by calling or getting together with people that he knows. Even if some of those people are not the people that he has an immediate desire to be with at that moment, human contact makes establishing more contact easier. A key factor to remember is that knowing how to be a good listener is extremely important. If a person talks about himself all of the time, it will tend to turn people away. Also, a person should take the initiative of introducing himself to other people and not wait for other people to approach him. One of the keys to gaining a new circle of friends is by showing a genuine interest in them, and the things that they do. A person should also remember to be courteous and polite, and realize that some of the people whom he desires to be friends with already have their own circle of friends. Spending time with family at this stage can also be important. You can share friends and meet new people together, thus diminishing that awkward feeling of being alone in public.

Correlation between Social Relationships and Mortality

An article in The Wall Street Journal titled “When Being Alone Turns into Loneliness, There Are Ways to Fight Back,” suggests,

Spending time alone is more fun when it is by choice. When it is the result of loss, separation or isolation, people are likely to experience it as loneliness. Homesickness, bullying, empty-nesting, bereavement and unrequited love are all variations on the theme. Loneliness isn’t depression, which is a lasting feeling of deep sadness and hopelessness and should be treated by a professional. [2]

In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study comprised of 148 studies and involving more than 300,000 participants on the correlation between social relationships and mortality. Their research showed that “loneliness was as strong a predictor of early death as was alcoholism or smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it was a stronger predictor than obesity or a sedentary lifestyle.” [2] John T. Cacioppo, who studies loneliness, and is a psychologist and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, stated that the rate of loneliness in the United States has doubled in the past 30 years. He estimates, “some 40% of Americans report being lonely, up from 20% in the 1980s.” [2]

Why does there appear to be more loneliness now than ever before? The Wall Street Journal articles suggests,

Many of us spend way too much time behind electronic screens and not nearly enough on our real, in-person connections.

You don’t have to be alone to be lonely, as anyone who has suffered through a bad relationship or an awkward holiday gathering can attest. “Loneliness is the feeling of social isolation or dissatisfaction with your relationships,” Dr. Cacioppo says. “It’s not just about whether there are others around you. It’s about whether the ones around you are those you can trust.” Some people are genetically more prone to loneliness than others, he says. [2]

Dr. Cacioppo also points out that when it comes to social relationships and interaction, women differ from men in that women desire face-to-face interactions, whereas as men tend to gravitate towards and connect with groups of people.

Therapists say loneliness, in its most unhealthy form, is a distorted way of thinking that often has an emotional trigger—whether it is a big change like a breakup or a geographic move, or something as simple as attending a wedding alone or bickering with a sibling.

The result is the same. Our subconscious rewinds back to when we were young and worried someone else wasn’t going to be there to take care of us. It is the negative thought “I don’t matter.” [2]

Remedies for Loneliness

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) realize that there are those among them who are alone and experience periods of feeling lonely. They also know and teach that some of the common ways of overcoming a feeling of loneliness are to render service to others, become actively involved in Church activities, and maintain associations with family and friends.

LeEtta Pratt of Richmond, Virginia, says, “I spend little time with the word lonely. The world is so full of wonderful people and meaningful things to do.

“Service in the Church has everything to do with preventing loneliness,” she continues. “The world is so full of needy people; there are physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. With the gospel, we have so much to contribute.”

And from San Jose, Costa Rica, Ines Solan writes that serving another person not only gives her joy, but “fills some emptiness” inside of her. [3]

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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are also Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers, watching over families in the congregation,  which affords them another opportunity to serve others. Often they discover that when they are busy serving others, they are able to avoid their own feelings of loneliness.

Many singles are blessed through the companionship of family members. But for those who do not have the companionship of immediate family members, extended family can provide family fellowship.

Loneliness can also be alleviated by reaching out to others. “Other people can be lonesome, too,” observes Roger Cook of Malvern, Australia. “A single person who fellowships someone else, whether single or not, is twice blessed.” [3]

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ understand that the key to avoiding loneliness and being happy is a gospel-centered attitude.

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