How community connection impacts your well-being
I come from an enormous, Middle-eastern family. Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
and you will get the gist of what it is like to spend time with my relatives. What is different about my family from that fictional movie family is that my family still lives in their small village across the ocean and I was born in the United States, with only my immediate family close by.
In their village, my family has a very tight knit community made up of hundreds people. My family has lived in the same community for many generations, relying upon each other for survival, protection and companionship. They developed customs, culture and a sense of shared values that helped them to live harmoniously together, giving a sense of belonging and well-being to all. Even today, members of the community have a responsibility to give and contribute to the community and, in return, receive the benefits, company, and comfort of the efforts of all.
For me, on the other hand, community has had a more modern definition. Instead of community being dictated by family and tradition, community has meant any group of people with shared values and interests to which I have actively belonged, an experience shared by most Americans. These days, community extends beyond the neighborhood to include special interest communities, spiritual or religious communities, social communities, fitness communities, charitable communities, medical communities, professional communities, retirement communities and even online communities.
The vast array of communities in modern society is reflected in our historical inclinations to come together to thrive through giving and receiving. The influence of these communities on our sense of well-being is clear. In a study conducted by Gallup, Americans serving their communities and being recognized within their communities score significantly higher on well-being surveys than those who do not participate in or are not recognized by a community. Another study by the New Economics Community shows that cooperative behavior activates the reward areas of the brain. As they put it, “We are hard wired to enjoy helping one another.” This communal cooperation builds trust, positive relationships, and increases one’s sense of well-being. When this connection comes through the workplace, connections and positive relatioinshps between employees are enhanced.
Merriam-Webster defines community as a unified body of individuals, and finding one that you can relate to and participate in can play an important role in your own well-being. What communities are you an active part of? What do you contribute and what do you receive from your community?
Laura Ingalls, BFA, CPT, CHHC