Emotional Health

Get Social

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5 Ways to Find a Community

Collective behavior is trending increasingly toward isolation. Weather is an excuse to stay in, and canceled plans can provide a surprising sense of relief. We value the convenience of ordering something or solving a problem without speaking to another person. But you might be paying a price for the convenience: Loneliness is on the rise and could be putting your health at risk.

A sense of community matters more than you might expect. Loneliness is a serious and rising health concern. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression, and studies show that social connection is one of the biggest predictors for health, happiness and longevity. As much as we prioritize work — and rely on social media to find community — physical interactions with friends and strangers represent a valuable, and necessary, part of our health.

You can feel isolated from your community for any number of reasons. A recent move, a remote work placement or an affinity for the online world can all contribute to decreased engagement with those who surround you. New forms of convenience also affect the number of social interactions we experience in our day-to-day life; online shopping, pre-ordering for pick-up and working from home are convenient, but increase isolation. Such traditional physical interactions may seem minor, but can foster a significant connection to the community.

That said, when you’re in a new environment, it can be hard to find comfortable social situations — and the motivation to seek them out. Whether you’re reconnecting with friends or finding your way in a new community, here are five tips to keep motivated and stay social:

1. Make a Miniature Bucket List

If you’re feeling sluggish, make a short-term bucket list: restaurants to try, exhibits to visit, shows to see. Then reach out to friends, family, neighbors — anyone you haven’t seen in awhile or would like to see more of — and invite them to join you. Not only will you recruit a peer for mutual motivation when work or the weather threatens to deter you, but you’ll simultaneously spend time being social and exploring your community.

2. Choose Opportunity

Technology makes it fairly convenient for us to avoid physical interaction. It allows us to shop online and “meet” people without a face-to-face encounter. The rise of remote working means that even work is no longer guaranteed to bring you in contact with a community.

But so much of this is a choice. When possible, go out of your way to pick the in-person alternative. Visit your local grocery store and talk to the cashier rather than use the self-check-out lane. Call up your friends or arrange to meet in person to hear about their lives rather than scrolling through your Facebook feed and offering a ‘like’ or two. Embrace technology for how it can help you find a community, but remember to get involved offline, too.

3. Commit to a Class

Whether for cooking, improv, a foreign language or any other passion you’d like to pursue, classes are a great way to make a commitment to social interaction. Most classes will cost some money, and with money on the line, you may be less likely to cancel your plans. Moreover, classes are often part of an ongoing education, meaning after completing your level, you will have the opportunity to continue, often with the same, newfound community.

If you’re really looking to make the most of your time, sign up for a workout class to increase both your social interaction and your fitness.

4. Find a Favorite Cause

Volunteering can help you become a part of, and give back to, your community. Not only will it put something on your social schedule, finding a cause that means a lot to you can connect you with a group of people who share your values. Volunteering has also been shown to boost your self-confidence and self-esteem while providing a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

5. Partner Up

Surveys show that loneliness is fairly widespread. Talk to your friends and peers; they are likely experiencing similar feelings. Together, you can resolve to be more active in the community and social outside the home, and your mutual interest can help motivate you to find new and exciting things to do. Identify who shares similar interests and invite them to join you the next time you volunteer, take a class or go out to eat.

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