The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food. - Dean Ornish
Community is important. In fact, the social ties in your life have the power to do everything from boost your happiness to improve your heart health, strengthen your immune system to even lengthen your life.
And perhaps most importantly, the people who make up your community (your friends, family, casual acquaintances, and those who share your interests, beliefs, or values) simply make life more meaningful and more fun.
Yet, community doesn’t happen without some help from you. As an article in Psychology Today puts it, “to build a sense of belonging requires active effort and practice.”
If you want a strong, resilient community that will see you through thick and thin, you’ll need to invest some time and attention.
Let’s take a look at some key steps you can take to start building community.
Share Your Interests
Do you love to knit? Adore cooking? Feel inspired by a good game of soccer? Make it a priority to do just one thing each week with those who share your interests. Join a book club or show up each week for a poetry reading. You’ll be amazed how this simple practice will spark your sense of belonging.
Is there someone interesting speaking at your local community center? An awesome concert coming up at a nearby theater? A free library reading your child would totally love? Getting out and attending events is a great way to give and receive information, meet people who share your interests, and build strong community ties.
Volunteering is a great way to connect with people that care about the same things you do. Even better, it’s something you can do (depending on the volunteer project) with your child. It gives children a sense of pride and belonging to help out with volunteer efforts, and you’ll be creating a community for both of you. Added bonus? Research shows volunteering is good for your health.
Extend and Accept invitations
Have people over for dinner, go out to the movies with a group of friends, or get a morning cup of coffee with a colleague. It can be easy to turn down invites or fail to extend them when you’re busy raising a child - but make these invitations a priority. Not only will they be good for you - but that happiness sparked from friend connections will extend to your child too.
Make It Happen
There’s no rule that says you have to wait around and find someone else’s community to join. If there’s some kind of group you want to be part of - make it happen. Plant a community garden, found a book club, start a single mom support group, or teach a cooking class. When it comes to the kind of community you can create - the sky’s the limit.
The big secret? Your kid is a great way to extend your friend community. You’ll be amazed at the cool people you can meet through your child’s nursery school, at parent nights, or at children’s birthday parties. Take the initiative and go to storytime at the local library, attend a mommy-and-me class, or host a tea party for your child’s class. Guess what? Those other moms are on the lookout for cool friends to hang out with… and that means you!
Value Close Friends
“While it’s good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, you also want to nurture a few truly close friends who will be there for you through thick and thin,” points out the Mayo Clinic. Spend lots of time with your closest friends - whether in person or on the phone. There’s nothing better than a friend who’s been with you through it all.
Take Up a New Interest
Always wanted to learn how to cross country ski? Yearning to become a better gardener? Thinking of taking a night class once each week so you can switch careers? Whether it’s a little thing or a big thing, learning a new skill can expand your horizons and broaden your community of friends and acquaintances.
Go Out & Explore
The number one rule for meeting cool new people and expanding your community? Leave your house. Go out. Take a walk. Visit the library. Climb a mountain. Host a picnic. Run a marathon. Whatever you do, do it where you’re likely to meet some awesome people who will inspire you, support you, adore you, and make your life that much more beautiful.
Build Your Community - One Step at a Time
“Don’t limit yourself to one strategy for meeting people. The broader your efforts, the greater your likelihood of success,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Diversify your efforts, and pretty soon you’ll have vibrant connections with amazing people that elevate your whole life experience.
Summary of Part I: In part one of this series, we discussed the different elements that make up a strong, resilient community