The Birdsong Morning Club #1: The Importance of Community
We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place, half-remembered, and half envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak without having the words catch in our throats. somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. arms to hold us when we falter. a circle of healing. a circle of friends. someplace where we can be free.
When we think of a healthy and fulfilling life, we invariably think of it as a linear function of diet and exercise. Lately, there’s been increased focus on gut, sleep, mental and emotional health. While these are important aspects of wellness, there are other lesser known and often overlooked components that contribute to our health in less apparent but in deep foundational ways. And one such key contributor is Community, a critical distinguisher between those who remain healthy and those who find themselves in illness!
Sociologically speaking, a community is a group of people joined together by a common interest, characteristics or experience. It’s a byproduct of people uniting in a common cause, to right some wrong, heal hurt or give service. In short, community is about shared identities, shared narratives, collective action and positive change.
When we look at community with the lens of health and wellbeing, it takes on a simplified form of basic social connectedness, the experience of belonging to relationships and networks, with or without a mission, cause and association action.
BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY
The term community immediately invokes in us a sense of togetherness, positivity, security, empathy and impact. And those feelings are elemental to wellness. The benefits of community can be best understood in the context of the absence of it. Research has shown that the lack of social connectedness can cause chronic loneliness, which in turn can lead to long-term damage to physiological health through increased stress hormones, weaker immunity, and poor cardiovascular health. This sense of loneliness can also make it more difficult to build willpower and resilience over time, leading to engagement in unhealthy behaviors. Community is the best medicine for isolation and related ailments such as stress, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, cognitive decline, heart health and so on.
Besides being an antidote to isolation, investing in our social health can bring about transformative benefits in taking charge of our life. Being part of a community of like minded people, instill in us a sense of purpose, keeps us motivated, holds us accountable, provides for learning opportunities and is a great source of stress relief.
WHY THEN DO WE HESITATE TO JOIN A COMMUNITY?
Humans are a profoundly social species; our drive to connect with others is embedded in our biology and evolutionary history. Our social needs is as primal as air, water and food. And yet, we may draw back from joining a group or engaging with social connections and a big reason for that is fear! The fear of failure , fear of social rejection, fear of being found unworthy, fear that we’re not good enough and so on. Further fear presents itself in the multiple forms – procrastination, mistrust, doubt, lack of initiative, being busy at all times, factors that stop us from making or upholding connections. To make matters worse, often times we find ourselves in the company of the wrong people or groups which makes it harder to keep up social relationships. Today, digital invasion is giving us the illusion of being socially connected but in reality we’re more isolated than ever before!
HOW DO I BECOME MORE SOCIALLY CONNECTED?
Communities are forged because we share common interests. There are many activities and things you can to do help increase your sense of social belonging. You could try a new sport, volunteer for a local event, find a new hobby, fine-tune an old one, there are endless options. But in order to gain maximum benefit from social connectedness, it’s crucial to choose the right activity, group or option. Things you can do to ensure this : –
- Become friends with yourself – Often times we’re just responding to external stimuli without really aligning with our inner being. Find regular time to pause and reflect on self. Knowing oneself is key to finding the right community. Reflect on what makes you get out of bed every morning, likes and dislikes, future goals, vision, what brings you joy, where do you want to make a difference and so on. Take the help of tools such as meditation and journaling.
- Ask “who in the broader community has the same interests?” – Once you’ve identified your interests, find and engage with people and groups with similar interests. You could find these groups on social media, newspapers, friends, etc.
- Give yourself permission to miss the mark – It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right fit. So be patient.
- Make fun the goal – Enjoy yourself! Every step needn’t be an effort in proving your self worth.
- Show up – This is paramount. Intentions without action is futile
No doctor ever looked at a patient and said – “I think the root cause of your illness is isolation!’ But it very well could be. The real pandemic ravaging the human race currently is Loneliness. Covid only underscored that reality. Community is the antidote. Find your tribe. Reclaim your health!
This article is our first publication under the Birdsong Morning Club, an online community space dedicated to connection, conversation and healing.
The Morning Club is moderated by Nithya Balasubramaniam who is a Functional Medicine Health Coach and the author of this blog. Nithya's key area of focus is helping people find a holistic approach to wellness. She is also the co-founder of a food blog (http://www.theplentifulplatter.com) where she curates traditional and heirloom recipes. For personal coaching on health and wellness, you can connect with Nithya here.