Five ways building community could transform your mental wellness

We’ve all been there pre-pandemic: the moment of contemplation when you weigh the cost-benefit of putting on clothes to leave your house and interact with the world against staying in, diving under the covers and avoiding all other humans. But now, perhaps running out the door to meet your pals is what you truly long for during this extended period of quarantine. As it turns out, building your community can help you reap valuable mental wellness rewards as self-care. In fact, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that positive social ties—both in a close network and with the broader society—play a positive role in mental well-being. 

Now, more than ever, we need community. Community-oriented solutions can be effective to manage mental health. According to scientists at National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), a community approach to mental health care that looks at an individual within the context of their environment, builds systems for people to get holistic care and understands the complexities of different populations can reduce stigma and help more people access the resources they need to care for their mental health. Mental Health America shares that connecting with others by spending time with people who you love and trust can reduce stress and improve your mood. So, find your people! And, when you find them, hang onto them tight. They really matter. 

Building community can bring great benefits. Investing time and energy into self-care can also help you build your community. According to Shelly Tygielski, a Mental Health Reporter for Mindful, self-care with the intention of self-preservation “reaches beyond the individual to impact communities, neighborhoods, our nation, and, ultimately, the world.” So, investing in yourself can be investing in your community. Take time to do the things that help you best show up for others—you’ll help your community more than you know. 

Building community does not have to mean a jam-packed, color-coded social calendar. And, it also looks drastically different than it did even a year ago. Here are a few ways you can connect with the people who matter to you—even when you’re forced to stay apart:

  • Please and thank you. Gratitude goes a long way. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that being kind to yourself and to others can actually make you happier. So, next time you venture out on your masked grocery run, make sure you say “thank you” to the essential workers stocking the shelves and checking you out. Boom. Maybe you made a new friend.
  • Check-in. Take time to connect with the people who matter to you. Sure, you can plan the perfect socially-distant friend date. Or, you could also simply send a text to let them know you are thinking about them. Even better, find the perfect GIF or MEME you are certain will brighten their day. 
  • Stay on schedule. Even if you aren’t heading to work every day, you can still create routine to connect with your community. Try creating a dedicated lunch time and hopping on a video call  with your co-workers once a week. Or, set up a weekly virtual family game night. While it may feel hard to prioritize this kind of connection in a digital world, making it part of a regular routine may go a long way to creating consistency in your social circle during these isolating times.
  • Reach out. At Crisis Text Line, we are part of your community. Please reach out if you’re feeling alone or in crisis. We’re here for you—always. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
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