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Building Healthy Lifestyles: Community, Social Connectedness and Relationships

The next blog post in my Building Healthy Lifestyles series is about community, social connectedness, and relationships and how these contribute to a healthy thriving life.

Community is such a critical part of building a healthy lifestyle. It plays a really important role in our health and wellbeing.

A lot of people are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, quarantines and social isolation making community and social connectedness more important now than ever before. Particularly, at a time when mental health issues are on the rise.

Humans are social creatures. We have an innate need to connect and be social with other people. The connections we create with others adds meaning and value to our lives.

For most, our immediate family are some of the first people that we connect and socialise with. They play a huge role in shaping our lives during our formative years, offering support for our growth and development into adulthood.

As we move through the different stages of life we meet other people, we make friends of varying ages and sexes. We build a variety of relationships. These relationships offer us a support base, a safe zone and a place to express our concerns. We socialise and celebrate life’s achievements with them. They know intimate details about our lives and offer support during the rough times. They are some of our closest confidants.

Our community and broader surroundings offer opportunities to engage in social activities, build broader connections, and find meaning and purpose in our life. We find these connections through work, hobbies, sporting activities, mother’s groups, online, spiritual, or religious groups, through others or at community events.

The place in which we live can impact how we engage with the community around us. Large cities offer a broader variety of opportunities than small and remote parts of Australia. However, the cost of living is higher in a large city and socialising can cost money. What this shows us is that our health and wellbeing is sometimes impacted by circumstances that are much bigger than us.

Having a peaceful well functioning civil society around us also impacts our health and wellbeing. The fundamental conditions and resources for a civil society are peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity.

The way a society governs itself, sets the rules, makes decisions, and resolves disputes is really important. This creates an environment in which we have access to essential services and can safely get on with our lives. We are not distracted by civil disputes and disruptions that impact how we live. All of these factors combined make for a healthy place for us to create meaningful lives and healthy relationships, including access to community and social connectedness.

Healthy relationships and social interactions, whether they are with family, friends, the community or society at large is vital for our health and wellbeing. Without these connections we are vulnerable to a variety of health issues. We are more likely to experience depression, low self-esteem, poor mental health and alcoholism. We can feel isolated, alone and unsupported or that our life lacks meaning and purpose.

Here are a few ways we can create and maintain healthy relationships and connections with our community:

  • Get out and about. Discover what’s in your immediate neighbourhood that offers opportunities to meet other people. Go for a walk, find a public library, a shopping centre or local park.

  • Engage in community social events. For example, markets, food festivals, workshops, mothers' groups, hobbies and sporting activities. These are all great ways to get to know your surroundings and meet people

  • Start your own group. Use your knitting skills or sporting interests to find likeminded people and bring them together. You never know who might also be keen to meet new people.

A thriving community can offer a sense of connectedness, kinship and camaraderie.

It can provide a sense of place and a role for each person in the community. It can make people feel they can bring themselves and contribute meaningfully bringing a sense of purpose and belonging to one’s life. It can help people evolve, grow, and try new things. A strong community can help people build resilient, strong individuals. Effective communities embrace conflict and diversity – working through differences and making space for civil discourse and the learning that occurs through various points of view.

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