Community is vital to our health and happiness
No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
As John Donne’s poem eloquently states, people need each other, we are better together than in isolation – like a jigsaw, each one of us is a vital part of the whole, the greater picture. That is why human relationships are so important to us, not just between our family and friends but with our wider community too.
By being more connected to others in our community we feel more supported and have a greater sense of belonging - indeed studies have proven that knowing we are valued increases our self-esteem and in turn we have more empathy for others. Moreover, these connections positively impact our mental health too, as those who are more socially connected are generally happier, physically healthier and experience fewer mental health problems and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Interestingly, regardless of how deprived or affluent a neighbourhood is, the higher levels of social cohesion, the happier and healthier the community is.
The importance of Community to our mental health is this year’s theme of Stress Awareness Month. Run by The Stress Management Society since 1992, Stress Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic and they have chosen ‘Community’ as their theme this year because ‘lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness. Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide.’
They, like many of us, recognise a positive that did emerge during the pandemic, people’s willingness to help out their fellow neighbours, fetching grocery supplies for those who were isolating, collecting prescriptions for those with limited mobility, cooking and delivering meals for our frontline workers. During these tough times neighbourhoods drew closer together and bonds were created, so ‘although restrictions have mainly been lifted, people need support now more than ever as they adjust to a new way of living.’ That’s why it is vital that the importance of community is not lost.
At The Friendly Bench CIC we recognise that everyone has a skill to share, a gift to give to others, to make their community a better, happier place to live. It could be they’re great at gardening, or they can make a fantastic cup of tea, they could be a charismatic conversation starter or someone who can enthuse others to get involved - whatever their skill, it is needed and it will be appreciated by others – this is what makes a community great, giving people of all ages and abilities a chance to come together and share their skill, to make new friends and build a happier, more connected and healthier place to live. Isn’t that what we all really want?
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