Coming Together: It Takes an Army to Combat Loneliness
Evidence from studying the blue zones, places in the world where people are thriving into their 100's have shown us repeatedly that community and active engagement are massive contributors successful longevity. Growing old while being vibrant means not only good health, but happiness as well.
In 2019 being in a member of a community in an urban, suburban, or rural environment is often more complicated or difficult than it was 50 or even thousands of years ago. Churches, mosques, synagogues have for many lost their relevance. The decline of these places of community gathering often brought people together to help a neighbour, build a house, be there for others during hard times, has created a vacuum in the lives of many -and strangely the introduction of the digital world has exacerbated this sense and feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness is problem many are facing now, and I see it in practice more often than I expected to or like. It's not isolated to widowed spouses, or the elderly, but is prominent in many working age adults. The feelings of loneliness can lead to anxiety, depression, and are tied with declines in physical health, as the motivation to eat well, and take care of ourselves, to engage in healthy, strong and supportive relationships decreases.
But the good news is, loneliness can be combatted and is quite within your control!
There are lots of ways to reintroduce community in your life - from joining a company softball team, helping your neighbourhood plant flowers in your neibourhood park, joining a group at your local YMCA, looking for online meet-ups. One of my favorites is to look for things to learn that are active, from rock climbing , dragon boating, to dance and playing music.
I'll share with you my experience with joining a dance group for 10 weeks.
Oddly enough, this was introduced to me by my patient, telling me about the absolute joy she felt throughout the entire program. I was invited to watch the final performance, and was instantly captivated by the huge wave of love, support, and just plain fun.
So, I decided to sign up and see if I could feel what must have been a pale comparison to what the actual performers were feeling.
Now a disclaimer, I've never danced seriously or professionally. I've done drop in classes here and there, but never committed myself to continuous practice - so I didn't feel I was very good.
The first dance class, I could sense a little shyness from some, some discomfort, disbelief, goofiness, playfulness, sassiness, and genuine care and respect for each other as we were going to be going through this entire thing beginning to end together. Over time, this blossomed into confidence, and true friendships were taking hold as we giggled and high-fived after strutting our stuff across the floor, and started getting into the choreography.
I started to notice how I felt after each class. I came home buzzed with happiness from laughing and learning new moves with new friends over the past 2 hours. My boyfriend was happy to see me like this and teased me as I vibrated from excitement on my way to class.
Spending my time with an amazing group of strong, positive, beautiful, and silly women meant more to me than I could have imagined. We all came from different kinds of careers, ages, sizes, ethnicities but felt so much love for each other. Our connection grew, and reached an unbelievable high during our performance days with lots of hugs, tears, and laughs. Now our little community will continue to live in its own way as if no matter where we go, whenever we connect again, there is something there that will make us feel bonded and loved always.
Signing up for a 10 week intensive program and doing two performances at the end was daunting. It forced me to carve out a special spot in my weekly schedule dedicated to dance, no exceptions could superseed my commitment to myself and my troop.
I became committed for the good of the whole, and that felt SO GOOD!
Watching others support each other ie. someone helping someone pick up something they dropped on the ground releases chemicals in our bodies that make us feel good.
Participating in that yourself not only raises your feel good hormones and happiness, but you are creating the opportunity for those around you to feel good as well!
This is why community is so important to our happiness and allows us to thrive into our later years.
BlueZones Project https://www.bluezones.com/services/blue-zones-project/#section-1
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Social Isolation and the Value of Community Connection https://cfccanada.ca/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=0f82b8ed-0275-4e17-8e98-d3f3a098797f