Community in the U.S. looks a lot different than it has in the past. Our individualistic society gives us the freedom to choose who we want to be, but it also means we have to put more effort into building a sense of community. Even with the extra effort, finding those supportive people to surround ourselves with is important. Studies done on blue zones, which are areas in the world where people live the longest, have found that one aspect of longevity is having a strong, healthy social circle. So, community doesn’t just impact how we feel, it can directly impact our health.
What does building a community look like? It depends where we’re starting from and what we’re working with, but focusing on the people already in our lives can be a good place to begin. It’s so easy to let old friendships slip through our fingers because life gets busy and checking in isn’t at the top of our priority list. It’s something that doesn’t need to be done right now, which can lead to it never being done. Yet, maybe it’s time to rearrange those priority lists. It’s not possible to build a sense of community without focusing on those connections, and in the end, there isn’t much that’s more important than staying close to the ones we love. So, start by making a list of old friends and acquaintances who you want in the community of people surrounding you. Maybe you add an old best friend that you haven’t seen in years. Maybe an acquaintance that you only met a few times, but something about them makes you want to get to know them better.
After the list is made, it’s time to start reaching out. Set up a time to meet if that’s possible, or even a phone call can bring two people a lot closer together. Then, after the date is scheduled and the good time is had together, remember not to leave it there. Don’t let a whole year go by between interactions. Set up another time to meet, and try to make it relatively soon. This is important because yes, the friendships that can pick up right where they left off after years of not seeing each other are great, but they don’t tend to help us feel that sense of community, not consistently at least. Build relationships around you where talking, laughing, and supporting happens often. If you don’t have the time to do this with each individual, then bring everyone together as a group. Have your friends meet your other amazing friends. That’s what a community looks like, isn’t it? One big group.
Loneliness is growing in our society, and it can be one of the hardest emotions to deal with for our mental and physical health. But, a little effort and time can go a long way in helping us feel as though we belong. One of the most important things we can do is spend time focusing on the ones we love, whether we already are, used to be, or want to be close to them. Let’s bridge the gap to form that community.