Community plays an important role in human life. Beyond family, friends and romantic relationships, meaningful connection to a community adds depth to one's social experience. Through community, we have the opportunity to contribute to the lives of others, feel appreciated and respected, expand our identify and enhance our self-esteem. A community also opens doors to new friendships and a variety of experiences not otherwise expected. As a rule, more positive emotions and better health are reaped by those who develop community relationships.
Modern society has moved away from traditional, small neighborhoods which made community connections easier for our ancestors to establish and maintain. While there are more people in our cities and social institutions today, the sense of cohesion has weakened. This is in part due to the pace and mobility of the world today. Family and friendships are invaluable, but these relationships can change quickly as lives evolve. When community ties are weak, the loss of a friend or loved one can leave a person without a social buffer. Isolation and loneliness easily develop. Both conditions are associate with depression, as well as poor physical and psychological health. Good social ties of all types strengthen our ability to be emotionally resilient and maintain physical health.
Loneliness is not the same as spending time alone. It is a sense of deprivation in one's social life. Individual needs vary, so not everyone feels lonely who is alone. People can feel lonely if they lack meaningful relationships, despite the company of others. Loneliness can be transient (from time to time), situational (after a loss or change of conditions) or chronic. Of these three, chronic loneliness is the most challenging to overcome. Often it is linked with low self confidence and weak social skills. But, no one has to be lonely. When it occurs, it is important to realize we contribute to our own loneliness. And we can change. Here are some suggestion on how to start:
Communities do exist, but more and more they must be cultivated or sought out. It is important to recognize there are many types of communities. They can be relatively small or very large. They can be formed from natural alliances of location or mutual interests, or bring together adventuresome individuals who want to do something new or different. Anytime a group of unrelated people come together for the sharing of activity, support or company, a community is formed. Think about your interests, or groups you know exist in your neighborhood, school or community institutions. Calling a recreation department for a list of regularly scheduled events one way to find a group that suits you. Nonprofit, charitable organizations also form volunteer communities. You may even want to start a group of your own if a group with your interests is not available. While it is sometimes uncomfortable to begin the process, starting to expanding your social circle will reap rewards down the road. It is usually up to us to take the first step.
ethnic culture group
sports or recreation group
Reaching out to form or join a group can take some courage. Many people have a mild fear of being turned down when approaching new people. Still, if you want to expand your community, it is important not to be stopped by that fear. There will always be people we approach who are unreceptive, but there are many others who will welcome a friendly gesture or kind word. It will usually take some time to feel comfortable and "part" of a group that is already established. Be sure you pick a group that is receptive to new members, and get involved with their activities. There are some basic communication strategies that can help get the ball rolling when you find yourself in the company of new people.
Talk about yourself, your interests, ideas, thoughts, and reactions in an open, non-boastful manner. Many people will relate to your experiences with similar ones of their own. This exchange opens the door for people.
Most people love to talk about themselves. Invite them to do so. Listen and watch how they do it. Compliment or thank them, with sincerity. Give good eye contact and a relaxed smile. This helps others relax and feel welcome.
Asking questions to clarify a statement or to invite someone to talk more about a subject is a good way to let them know you are listening, and interested. It can help to keep a discussion going, and you learn more about the individual or group.