Driving back from my Mom’s home in Arizona, I had an overwhelming feeling of well-being. I went down to help take care of her and came home feeling so much better myself. As my husband and I were reflecting on our time spent with her, we both agreed that there was a keen sense of belonging in the community in which she lives, and we had loved spending time there with her. We were noticeably aware of how the isolation over the past year and a half had impacted us and how it made a difference to be in a community with others.
These elderly folks had found a way to take wise precautions to help keep themselves safe and to also take care of each other and enjoy each other’s company. They had found a way to be safe and loved right in the middle of a pandemic. The importance of community and the sense of belonging has been on my mind ever since. My Mom and her friends were figuring it out and doing a pretty good job at it.
“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.“
~ Dean Ornish
It is common knowledge that exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet creates a healthy lifestyle. However, there are so many other important factors that can contribute to overall health and well-being including the physical and social environments that surround us often referred to as our communities.
This feeling of fellowship with others can provide a sense of purpose and belonging, and in turn, can have a positive effect on overall health and wellbeing. We need each other and the connection that it provides for us to stay healthy.
“This feeling of fellowship with others can help provide a sense of purpose and belonging, and in turn, can have a positive effect on overall health and wellbeing.”
So how do we safely come together in community?
- Be a good neighbor. You can check in on those close to you and consider swapping home-cooked meals. You can also swap books or movies this way. Even better find a drive-in movie and enjoy watching a good movie outdoors.
- Get together with high school friends on a Zoom call.
- Limit your social circle and consider creating a “bubble” with one or two close households.
- “You could cook together on Zoom, which my sister has done with a smaller group of friends. It’s a good way to connect.
- Pick up the phone. I use the phone to talk or FaceTime with my family and dear friends to catch up and check-in to see how they are doing. It’s nice to get their favorite new recipes, movies, TV suggestions, or to make plans to safely get together outdoors.
- You can also play games on your phone like my Mom continues to do with family and friends. She finds playing Word Sense 2 challenging, enjoyable, and a good way to take her mind off of things.
- Put pen to paper: Texting and emailing are convenient and efficient means of communicating, but why not write a letter or a note to a friend or loved one to make it more personal. It’s fun and meaningful to get a letter in the mail.
These relatively simple steps can help us meaningfully connect with one another without significantly increasing the risk to our health.
Last but not least find purpose and connection during the pandemic.
Searching for ways to make a difference seems to be a natural human response when we face adversity. In his book, JOLT, author Mark Miller describes how unforeseen traumatic life events can actually inspire people to change and grow, putting them on a path toward purpose. Research suggests that crises don’t just cause stress and suffering: they can also motivate us to help others and find new, purposeful directions in life.
Amid today’s global crisis, that’s exactly what happened to me and what I have seen happening to many people around me. It has brought new meaning and focus in my life that has been transformational in a way I didn’t expect.