(In past 4 weeks I have been writing a series of posts on self care covering related topics like finding your purpose, knowing what is important and what matters, creating a morning routine and why we need to unplug regularly from technology to reconnect with ourselves and others. You can read these posts here).
In the first four posts, I had focussed mostly on the relationship that we have with ourselves. In the second last post in this series, I am focussing on our outer worlds, namely, the relationships that we have with others. In other words, our social connections.
"Alone we can do so little. Together, we can do so much"
However, before we go any further, I would like to mention here that I have started taking baby steps to start a community (closed Facebook group) for like minded women with similar values and goals. Keeping that in mind, I am hosting a free online challenge for women whose details are given at the end of this post.
As social animals, we have evolved over millions of years to cooperate with others to hunt, to gather food and to survive. Like most primates, if we were ever to have become separated from our tribe, we would have not survived in isolation. Hence each of us has a very primitive need to be connected with others. The accompanying feeling of anxiety that often accompanies our feeling of loneliness serves a very real and useful purpose of making us feel insecure and pushes us to reconnect with others. Infact, our disconnection with other people is one of the most critical aspects leading to the surge in loneliness, anxiety and depression that is so pervasive in our world today. Having meaningful social relationships then is the antidote to the feeling of disconnection and in turn loneliness.
In our busy, hectic modern lives what often gets short changed are the meaningful relationships that we form and maintain right from childhood to adulthood. A lack of such relationships usually leads to loneliness and isolation. There are numerous studies which have been done in this space by scientists studying loneliness and its effects on our health. Numerous studies show that for all the progress our modern society has made in the fields of medicine, science and technology, we are struggling with high rates of mental health issues like depression, suicide, poor health, loneliness and anxiety. One of the research also shows that being isolated is as stressful as experiencing a physical attack from a stranger.
What I really find shocking, however, is a meta-analysis of studies on loneliness which reveal the following-
Living with air pollution increases our odds of dying early by 5%
Living with obesity, 20%
Excessive drinking, 30%
Loneliness increases the risk of dying early by 45%
Every status update is just a variation of a single request "Would someone please acknowledge me?”
Our dependence (and a form of addiction) on social media usage can then be explained in terms of our need to really connect with each other. As social animals, we need to interact face to face, see, feel, hear and smell each other in a non threatening and caring manner. Simply put, social media and phones our simply does not and cannot replace our social lives. The time has come for all of us to become aware of what this kind of disconnection is costing us in terms of our health, happiness, life goals, achievements and preventing us from living a life that is full of joy and passion.
(I have written more on this topic in my earlier post)
The power of community in safeguarding our health
Being a part of a community is a powerful tool that we need to use to combat the illnesses that threaten our modern societies. Of course, wellness and good health starts with each of us taking personal responsibility for the choices that we make daily. We need to nourish our bodies with the right foods, take adequate rest, move our bodies and take care of our spiritual needs. However, it certainly does not end there.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, our lives are inextricably intertwined with all of nature and certainly with that of all other human beings. Being well and keeping well is then a community affair. This includes our families, our schools and colleges and finally our workplaces and society at large.
However, even while being a part of any community, we all need to be heard and feel recognised, understood and accepted as we are by our families, friends, our colleagues and our peers. This becomes even more relevant in the modern social context as traditional social community ties are changing and dissolving. We need to find ways to form social groups and work even harder to make and maintain close relationships.
(I have shared book recommendations and articles below f you would like the explore these topics in details)
Community IS Medicine
It must have become clear by now how our emotional and physical well being is tied up with our sense of belonging and being a part of a tribe. Here, I would like you to pause for a moment and reflect on the following questions
Do I have rich, satisfying relationships with others?
What is my most valuable relationship?
What are some of the ways that I am nurturing and taking care of my need to belong? (eg. being a part of a book club, religious community, gym, women's groups, FB groups)
What does being a part of that group make me feel? ( eg. feel accepted, heard, safe)
What are some of the ways that I can join or even form social groups which inspire and challenge me to grow and thrive?
In terms of reaching our health and wellness goals, being a part of a community can support us in the following ways by providing
- new ideas and fresh perspective
- inspiration and keeping you motivated
- you with a collective wisdom
As you ponder over these questions, you may want to go through some of the ways that you can choose to enhance your relationships and be a part of a community that fulfils your need to belong in a healthy manner
You can choose to....
connect a bit more by listening, communicating, and allowing your heart to remain open
be truly present in a face to face conversation by noticing the posture and body language and making eye contact
show up as yourself and create a space where others feel safe enough to do the same
make your relationships your top priority in life and consciously make time and space for it
As the author, Mathew Kelly said so beautifully,
"Learn to waste time with the people you love"
"Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with"Author unknown
STARTS ON 30th of September 2019 (Monday)
ENDS ON 6th of October 2019 (Sunday)
This challenge is for women who feel overwhelmed, exhausted, depleted and/or frazzled and are running on empty with little to give to themselves or others
This challenge is ALSO for you if you are ready to
accept yourself completely
refuse to feel guilty for taking out time for yourself
feel more energetic savour time with yourself as well as take care of your family