By: Georgina Berbari
Social connection is a vital aspect of our overall wellbeing. People with strong community support systems tend to live longer and healthier lives, according to a myriad of studies. Conversely, the stress of too much isolation has been compared to smoking in terms of its detrimental effect on the body and mortality.
Yet, “the loneliness epidemic” has unfortunately been on the rise–which is negatively impacting our health as a society. So, why is community so important as a means for meaning and longevity?
The Uplifting Impacts of Being In Community
As social creatures, humans require interpersonal contact as a survival mechanism. One of the dictionary definitions of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” There is a sense of unity, being embraced and welcomed by others, feeling seen and heard. One’s individual identity can be put aside for the time being, for the sake of something greater–a collective space of coming together. There might be sharing of thoughts, ideas, feelings, food, and more. A sense of contributing and belonging can also strengthen our overall purpose and the meaning of our lives, which is also linked to wellbeing.
Moreover, the sense of security that community brings can be deeply nourishing. For example, when we go through major life events such as a loved one passing away, strong community connection will provide a ground of support and guidance for the darkest of days. On a smaller scale, if you’re having car troubles, perhaps a handy community member would be just a phone call away for assistance. The sense of being and feeling safe is a cornerstone of a healthy community that is quite comforting for our hearts as humans.
Combating Loneliness Through Connection
Loneliness can be very difficult, and when in the throes of this dreary feeling it might feel like community is a distant dream. However, 1 in 4 adults report feeling lonely–so, ironically, you are not alone in your loneliness.
Loneliness is a tricky feeling, too: For example, you could be in a room of 30 people and still feel lonely. This is why, on the quest for a nourishing community, self-reflection is so important.
How to Cultivate Community & Meaningful Connection
So, how does self-reflection help with finding a community that resonates with you? Knowing your hobbies and interests is a great start. When you know what you are interested in, it eases the anxiety of reaching out and integrating into a new community–because you are propelled by something you really love. In the macrocosm of our universe, there are countless microcosms of niche interests that we have as unique human beings. From fitness, to art, to cooking… From prayer and worship, to book clubs, to advocacy and volunteer groups–once you begin looking for your own special nook, you’ll see that there is indeed a community waiting to welcome you.
There might be a bit of trial and error at first, as there are various communities corresponding with each interest. But, another important aspect of finding a community you resonate with, is not being afraid to say yes to new opportunities. It might feel uncomfortable or risky at first, but the payoff will be well worth it. Feeling the power of a community of people who have similar values and beliefs as you, and who are willing to open their hearts and build a meaningful space of connection together, is unparalleled.
The Bottom Line
Being in a community improves our overall health, provides us with invaluable connection and learning opportunities, and enriches our lives with meaning and joy. From online communities, to volunteer organizations, to groups that nurture each other’s interests and values, there is a group of humans out there waiting to welcome you into their unique microcosm. Happy community building!
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