Community: Why it Matters to Your Health (How to Find and Build it Again)
We are social beings - we were meant to have healthy, engaging relationships with others. Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we need human contact. Sadly, the past few years have produced great loneliness, or exacerbated that condition, with which far too many people had already been suffering. When our world was shut down, many people lost their avenues for developing this connection, whether it be through churches/temples, the workplace, parks, or schools. We were left isolated in our homes for months on end. Add to that the polarization of our world where people cut ties with family members and friends who did not share the same political, medical or social viewpoints. It saddens me deeply to hear the continuing stories of disconnection within previously life-affirming and loving relationships.
The loneliness caused by this lack of community has been shown to increase heart disease, obesity, mental illness, dementia, inflammation, and early death. In 2015, scientists did a meta-review and discovered that being lonely could increase the risk of death by 30%.
The great news is that all of those effects can be reversed by mindfully creating a community. Connection with others is key to creating a rich and meaningful life. This year at Heights of Health, we want to help foster community within our amazing clients and staff. The
first project that we are launching is a Mindfulness Community group led by one of our holistic
therapists, Peyton English, LMSW. We want this group to bring together holistically-minded people with a growth mindset. We want it to be accessible to all, so we are pricing it as such. It is an 8-week series that will only cost $20 per week (limited scholarships available based on need) and is worth so much more. Our hope is that this group will teach you the tools to foster the community that we all need and open doors to wonderful connections.
According to Peyton, some tools to build inter-personal connections are:
It starts with you! Get attuned to yourself and be kind to what you find. As human beings, we usually have parts of ourselves that we don’t like, sometimes even hate. When we can be kinder (if you find it hard to be kind) to ourselves and show compassion to the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, we will in turn, show more kindness and compassion to those around us that hold up the mirror to those parts. It’s really hard to appreciate others when they remind us of what we don’t like about ourselves. The more kind and nurturing we are to these rejected parts of ourselves, the more we are able to connect and show kindness to others.
It’s uncomfortable… or it can be. The more we accept ourselves, the more open we are to trying new things and meeting new people. Putting ourselves out there, whether learning something new in a class or opening up to a new friend, can be scary and can feel like you are letting go of control. Vulnerability is sharing our true selves in all its beautiful messiness. It is the greatest connector and community builder, and yet, being vulnerable is something we tend to shy away from. There is no right or wrong way to be vulnerable, and it is different for everyone. It is you being your most authentic you.
Ask for support when you need it. We are social creatures and made for community. We are brought into this world and would not make it very far without the care of a loving other, whether it’s a caregiver, teacher, friend, partner, mentor, and the list goes on. Sometimes life throws a curve ball (or many) at us, and we need support. This is not a weakness, and we are not burdens. We just need someone that we trust to hold our hope or bring soup to us in our times of need.
In our Mindfulness Community, “We are basically going to practice the above suggestions -
learning and practicing how to become more aware and accepting of ourselves and sharing our new experiences with one another in a co-created supportive environment.”
“We are going to learn and practice tools to become more connected to ourselves (thoughts,
emotions, and bodies) in a non-judgmental, compassionate manner. As we try on different
ways of being mindful each week (It is not one size fits all - what clicks for you may not work for your neighbor and that’s ok!), we are also going to share our experiences with one another and support one another in this new practice.”
Learn more about how you can join our Mindfulness Community group here.
Our next goal is to create monthly “Expanding Horizons” classes where, again, like-minded
people can gather and explore a new skill – from gardening to art to cooking and more. Keep
an eye out for these classes in our newsletters, as they will have limited capacity and we expect them to fill up quickly.