How to Find Your Community to Support Your Health Journey
Humans are an inherently social species. While some of us need more social interaction than others, we all need some form of it on a somewhat regular basis. A sense of belonging and support is vital to our well-being and has been since the beginning of our time. A community can exist as a shared physical location or be created as a group with commonalities. To be part of a community, in any sense of the definition, is to feel a sense of acceptance, fellowship, connection, and togetherness. These feelings directly correlate to our health and can be a positive influence on our health journey.
The Benefits of Community on Health
Studies have shown that social relationships have both short and long-term effects on psychological and physiological health. There is compelling evidence suggesting a link between low quantity or quality of social relationships and the development and progression of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Loneliness and isolation also impact immune function, cognitive function, mental health, healing, and longevity. 1
Community is synonymous with the human experience, so much so that without it, our health deteriorates. As humans, we need to be a part of something outside of ourselves. We need to feel like we belong somewhere, whether within a friend group, a shared interest or hobby club, a volunteer initiative, or as an active member of the community we physically live in.
Finding your community, whatever that means to you, can come with immediate and long-lasting positive influences on your wellness journey, such as:
Encouragement to pursue your interests, goals, and dreams
Motivation to adhere to healthy habits
Opportunity to learn and expand your mind
Reinforcement to try new things and step out of your comfort zone
Invitation to accept, love, and believe in yourself
Inspiration to be part of positive social or environmental change
Support in both the good and hard times
Sense of purpose
5 Ways to Find Your Community
There is no better time than this summer to get out there and find your community! The beauty of these five ways is that each one might open additional doors to other communities and opportunities for meaningful social relationships.
Sign-up for a Class
Continuing to learn, challenge yourself, find new ways to express yourself, engage in meaningful discussions, and exchange ideas with others should be a life-long pursuit. Learning something new is a form of exercise for the brain, which can improve cognitive functions like concentration and attention to detail and help ward off cognitive decline as we age.
Committing to and completing a class in something you are interested in (photography, art history, creative writing, cooking) can naturally lend to feelings of achievement and fulfillment. A class setting, whether online or in-person, also offers a community of like-interested individuals whom you may develop deeper and long-lasting relationships with outside of class. At the very least, signing up for a class is a way to find a community for the course duration. A positive experience may also inspire you to continue to take classes.
Join a Club or Group
There is a club or a group for likely anything you could possibly be interested in—hiking, birding, yoga, traveling, reading, theater, you name it. Joining a club or a group is a really easy way to become a part of a community. Right off the bat, everyone in the group will have one shared interest, but the likelihood that you will find individuals within the group that you join with a lot more in common with you is typically high as like often attracts like.
Participate in an Online Wellness Challenge
We live in an era where connections and community can be formed digitally too. A positive blend of health and digital community can be made by participating in an online wellness challenge. Whether the challenge is to reach your healthy weight, transition to a more plant-based diet, or incorporate more yoga or meditation into your week, working toward a personal health goal is sometimes easier when you have the accountability and support of a group trying to achieve the same thing.
To get started, you can search for groups specific to the goal you are trying to achieve via social media groups or contact your local fitness or yoga centers to see if they are hosting any online (or hybrid online and in-person) wellness challenges. Another option is to create your own challenge and invite others to join you.
Book a Retreat
Booking a retreat is a gift to yourself that has the potential to keep on giving. Retreats are immersive and intensive, and often relationships and bonds are formed quickly. Most of the time, there are a lot of commonalities or complementary attributes and interests between retreat attendees. Plus, sometimes retreats just have a way of bringing people who need to be in each other lives for one reason or another together. There are all different types of retreats, including virtual ones, for all different interests, purposes, and budgets.
Volunteer Your Time
While the intention of volunteering is to help others (human or non-human), the act itself can benefit the volunteer. It is not an uncommon sentiment amongst volunteers to feel that they’ve gotten more out of the experience than they gave. Volunteering is undeniably rewarding; it is a win-win for everyone involved. Studies have shown that regular volunteering can have both mental and physical health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress levels, and providing a sense of social connection, an antidote to isolation. 2
The easiest way to find community in volunteer work is to find an ongoing volunteer opportunity doing something meaningful to you. In doing so, you will likely meet other volunteers and form connections with the individuals whom you are donating your time, compassion, and self to.
Umberson D, Montez JK. (2010). Social Relationships and Health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior. PubMed Central.
Watson S. (2013). Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health.