One of the most concerning things about today’s society is our loss of community. We are genetically programmed to live in groups and for most people the sense of belonging that comes with participating in a communal group contributes greatly to an increased feeling of satisfaction, support and well being. These days it is more and more common for people to move away from their families and childhood friendship groups and to live in more isolated nuclear family arrangements, diluting the primary source of belonging that we have historically depended on. Many people find themselves surrounded by more people than ever, while having less meaningful interactions than ever. In order to compensate we need to purposefully build a presence of community into our lives.
Our need for connection to other people is based on a type of primitive survival instinct, dating back to when our chances of survival were dramatically increased if living within a group. We are programmed to seek and to foster connections to other people, and we may even feel physical pain when a connection to someone close to us is lost. Research has shown that rejection causes the same part of the brain to activate that physical pain does. Heartache is real.
The connections we need go beyond our partner and immediate family. While our partner may fulfill a large amount of the need for connectedness, with the high failure rate of long term relationships in modern societies it is wise to also foster close platonic relationships to people other than our romantic partner. In the case where someone does not have a partner and perhaps not even close family, the value of being part of a community is enormous as it can help satisfy that basic human need for connection and belonging which, when missing, can have a significant and negative impact on health and well being.
Maintaining a sense of belonging in a community outside your immediate family can benefit an intimate relationship by taking the pressure off your partner to satisfy all of your emotional needs. It can encourage you to grow as a person and helps you hold on to a sense of individuality in a relationship too, so that you don’t lose the very you that your partner was drawn to in the first place.
These days communities can be found everywhere, from hobby groups to fitness organisations or even online interest groups. People with shy personalities may do best to join an interest group where personal interaction is indirect via a common activity and friendships form slowly. People who are time poor or physically restricted may benefit from an online community, as would those looking for support for a particular issue as they are more likely to be interacting with people that can relate to their experience, first time parenting for example. Those looking to increase their circle of friends can join a vast variety of interest or social groups that can be found through community bulletin boards, newspapers and online directories such as Meetup.
The options are vast and varied, but what is important is that you find a sense of support and belonging, so continue to explore options until you do find that place you feel you fit. You health and well being may just benefit more that you expect.