“Combating Loneliness: Get Out, Reach Out, Look Out,” Ensign, December 2019
Last year when my husband and I moved across the country with our three-week-old daughter, I found that I was lonely and really needed some friends. My husband had started a new job and was working long hours. I was busy changing diapers, doing all the laundry that comes along with a newborn, and trying to decorate our new apartment, but I missed my friends and the social life I had before we moved. I knew only a few people in our new ward and didn’t know my way around the area. I even cried sometimes because it felt like I would never make friends like the ones I had before we moved. I soon realized that to combat my loneliness, I had to take action.
A lot of times, when we’re feeling lonely, the first thing we might want to do is scroll through social media feeds on our phones or stay inside watching TV while throwing ourselves a pity party. I know I’ve done all those things. I’ve noticed, though, that when I do this I may forget about my feelings for a little while, but in the end, I don’t really feel better. Sometimes I actually feel worse if I find myself comparing my life with the highlights shared by people I follow on social media.
When I have lonely moments, I have noticed that there are three things that help me feel better: get out, reach out, or look out. When we first moved. I tried to make a conscious effort to do each of these things every day, and over time I felt a lot less lonely.
When I leave the apartment, whether I’m going for a walk with my baby, running errands, visiting the library, exploring a new park, or even just going out to sit on my porch, the experience usually helps to clear my mind and give me a fresh perspective on life.
Sometimes it takes reaching out ourselves, rather than waiting for someone to reach out to us, to find our way out of loneliness. When I reach out to others, whether it’s a call or video chat with a friend or family member, dropping a treat off to the sister I minister to, or even just texting a friend I haven’t caught up with in a while, I usually forget myself and feel less lonely almost immediately.
One day, while pushing my baby in the stroller through a nearby park, I saw a group of moms with strollers doing a workout together. I wanted so badly to join them, so I did a Google search to see if I could find information about the class. I soon started going every week and meeting some great friends. I also started attending my ward’s book club, going to teach lessons with the missionaries, and bringing my baby to a baby music class. In each of these situations, I had to make an effort to talk to people and introduce myself. It was a little awkward at first to join conversations, but each time I did, I felt more and more comfortable. Of course, I still had lonely moments, but joining these activities helped me feel like I at least had people—if not quite friends yet—to connect with.
Looking outside myself for someone who has needs that I can meet and then trying to meet those needs always makes me feel less lonely. Even acts of service as simple as writing a note for my husband or spending time finding family names to take to the temple always make me feel better.
I have sometimes felt at my loneliest while surrounded by other people. It can happen when a group of people don’t share my standards, or when they don’t speak the same language I do, or when I’m feeling disconnected from the conversation. Of course, just joining a group of people is not always going to help alleviate loneliness. We need to strive to form real social connections in order to combat it. I’ve noticed when I look outside myself and show interest in trying to get to know people by remembering things they tell me, asking questions, and looking for the good in them, I usually start to feel a genuine connection.
It’s OK to feel lonely sometimes—there is no need to be ashamed of these feelings. We all go through periods of loneliness, but with time and a little effort on our part, they can and will pass. Just as we need to “taste the bitter, that [we] may know to prize the good” (Moses 6:55), we all have to experience loneliness and sadness at times so we can better appreciate the happy moments of life.
For most people, loneliness is a challenge that can be conquered with some effort, emotional energy, and help from the Savior. President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) taught:
“We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. …
“As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.”1
Although I may not have realized it at the time, looking back, I now see that some of my loneliest moments have also been when I have felt closest to God. When I’m lonely, my prayers are more sincere, I seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost more, and I feel Christ’s perfect love for me more readily.
During His earthly ministry, the Savior knew what it was to be lonely (see Matthew 8:20; 26:40) and experienced complete loneliness as He performed the Atonement. On the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Heavenly Father allowed His Son to feel complete and utter loneliness for a moment, one reason being that Christ would then understand us and know how to comfort us in our loneliest moments.
Loneliness will come (and hopefully go) during different periods of life, sometimes because of the actions of others, sometimes because we have isolated ourselves, and sometimes because of circumstances outside our control. But because He perfectly understands, the Savior can “succor [us] according to [our] infirmities” (Alma 7:12) by sending the companionship of the Holy Ghost and helping us find people we can connect with.