The Power of Community

Much of the holiday season centers around quality time with your loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone has a community to call their own. In fact, surveys suggest that one in three adults (age 45 and older) in the United States feel lonely. Technology actually exacerbates the problem: Although it connects us now more than ever, we’re less likely to spend time together face-to-face, leading to feelings of isolation. This idea is especially true for those of us who work from home. You may go days without any reason to leave your home or interact with others in-person!

Let’s dig in a little deeper. Why is community so important?

When you have a strong support system, you experience social connectedness. Social connectedness is defined as “the degree to which people have and perceive a desired number, quality, and diversity of relationships that create a sense of being cared for, valued, and supported.” In other words, you feel like you belong. 

People with strong social bonds have a 50 percent increased chance of survival than those who have fewer personal connections. Having meaningful relationships in your life leads to less stress, better sleep, and healthier habits and behaviors. Ultimately, these changes contribute to better overall health, which leads to more fulfilling experiences and a longer life.

Given this positive correlation between community and wellbeing, it’s not surprising that loneliness and seclusion can lead to serious health issues. They increase your risk of depression, anxiety, heart disease, and memory loss. For people who have a hard time connecting with others — whether it’s due to poor mental health, a language barrier, or financial insecurity — lack of community can be even more problematic.

Fortunately, you can take steps to improve feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Remember that it takes time to build new and strong relationships. While there is no set strategy or proven approach, these tips can help.

  • Invest in your current social circle. Make an effort to show the people in your life that you care about them. Send a “happy holidays!” text to an old friend or write a personalized note on your Christmas cards. You can even invite a friend to join you in things you already do, like a morning walk or afternoon spent at your favorite coffee shop.
  • Consider ways to meet new people. Chances are, your surroundings are filled with opportunities to expand your friendships. Visit your local community center and sign up for a pottery or watercolor class. If sports are more your thing, join a soccer or softball team. 
  • Cut out behaviors that cause you to disconnect from others. Research shows that social media use plays a major role in diagnoses of ADHD and depression. If your endless scrolling often results in feelings of loneliness and isolation, it’s time to create a new normal. Set a time limit on your devices or delete the apps all together. A digital detox may also be effective: Take a multiple-day break from your social media apps, and you’ll quickly realize how much newfound time you have!
  • Reach out for help. If you’re concerned about the impact of stress and loneliness on your life, talk to your primary care physician or another health care provider. Individual or group therapy may be a positive solution to help you gain confidence and grow your social circle. 

I hope your holiday season is filled with good health, happiness, and community!

Contact Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.