We are wired as humans to need varying levels of social support and stimulation in order to function at our best, at all ages and stages of our life. Loneliness can strike at any time and is often reported at times of major life events and transitions. Sometimes we can feel lonely whilst surrounded by other people because we don’t feel we fit in. It is important to all of us to feel that we fit in and belong. A sense of belonging assists us with maintaining good mental or physical health and helping us with unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, drinking too much or not exercising.
Participating in a community is one way of increasing a sense of belonging – the more we get involved, the more we feel we belong. The more we feel we belong, the more likely we are to contribute to making our communities stronger and safer for everyone.
Being part of a community gives access to material and social support when we need it, gives us a sense of identity and purpose and helps us grow our knowledge and skills which in turn helps our self‐worth. We are less likely to be lonely, and more likely to be healthier and happier.
There are sometimes barriers to making and keeping social connections with others – they might be practical ones such as time, transport, mobility impairments, costs of participating or having caring responsibilities. Or they might be social hurdles such as shyness, fear of rejection, visible or presumed differences, mental health reasons or cultural. Whatever it is, there will be someone else who is experiencing this too.
Some ways to participate, and increase your social and community connections could be:
- Think about what hobbies or interests make you happy and join a group focussed on one or more of those hobbies or interests
- Attend an organised activity or taster session for something you have never done before
- Visit your local library or community centre to see what’s available to join in with
- Use online resources to find groups or community organisations
- Start your own group or cause and reach out to others to join in with you
- Use social media to reconnect or connect with new people who you can then meet in person
- Go to a live music event, conference, place of faith, consultation, art show, garden display etc. and then reach out to others with an open and curious mind and show acceptance of them as they are.
- Seek out similarities but also appreciate differences as new experiences
- Learn a new skill
Positive People offers a lifeline to people who are not in work to help build confidence, skills and give a sense of hope for the future. The projects give people the opportunity to get involved in local communities, meet new people and have fun through a range of activities.
Written by Frances Esau, Community Guru in Devon