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Whilst Improving Your Wellbeing

Written By Katie Lowe (BA, GradDipPosPsych)

Anyone that has seen the movie ‘Castaway’ knows that we humans thrive on - even depend on connection. We are social beings that have evolved to subsist within supportive, nurturing communities.

We love to feel like we belong, and research actually shows that the biggest single factor for predicting health, wellbeing and longevity - is positive social connections.

When we feel like we belong and that we are a part of a community, we feel connected – and this really helps us to thrive and feel our best. Having these positive connections has even been shown to reduce the negative effects of conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Since the beginning of Covid, more and more people have experienced feelings of disconnection and isolation, and so it is more important than ever to think about how we can create and build connections within our community and help support each other.

We often forget that we have so much to offer others!

Here are 5 suggestions on how to get involved in your community to get you started.

1. Volunteer

Volunteers are some of the happiest people in the world! Studies have shown that volunteers enjoy better mental and physical health and report greater life satisfaction and meaning than those who don’t volunteer. They can even live longer!

Volunteering doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming, and is incredibly beneficial.

Start by looking at the things you are passionate about - here are some ideas to get you started:

Poverty and homelessness – volunteering at local kitchen or charity group

Loneliness – asking about volunteering opportunities for local nursing homes or charities that provide in-home visits. Or even just having a cuppa with a neighbour who lives on their own.

Sustainability – volunteer at your local community garden or rubbish collection walks

Animals – walk or cuddle some furry friends at your local RSPCA

Sports – Think about helping out, or even coaching at a local sporting club

There are so many more opportunities to volunteer in your community, so get creative and see how you can bring some more meaning and purpose into your life!

2. Random Acts of Kindness

Random acts of kindness are when we do something for someone else, without any expectation of anything in return. It can make us feel really good, by releasing feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin, and most importantly, it can make a huge difference to someone else’s mood or day!

Here are some ideas for random acts of kindness:

Giving a stranger a lovely compliment, a smile, or hold the door open for them.

You could bring your neighbours bins in with your own, offer to mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn, or check in on a lonely neighbour for a cuppa and a chat.

Or on your way out of the shops, you could offer to help an elderly person or struggling mum with her shopping trolley.

Kindness doesn’t have to cost you a thing! And it’s contagious!

Another great idea is to pay for the next person’s coffee in the morning. Recently my husband was stuck in morning school traffic, and a man kindly stopped to let him in. When he got to his morning coffee van, he noticed the same guy pull in behind him, so he asked if he could pay for his coffee. When the barista told the man that his cuppa was covered, he then asked to pay for the next person’s as well! It went on for another two people whilst my husband was still there!

Eventually, someone would have received a free coffee that morning, but the awesome thing is that all of these people benefited from the feel-good emotions of paying it forward!

Have a think about how you could practise kindness in your community this week!

3. Gratitude

You’ve probably heard about the idea of practising gratitude, but did you know that gratitude can actually reduce stress, increase happiness, and even lower levels of inflammation in your body?

Science is now supporting the many benefits of gratitude that people have long suspected, with one study finding “considerable evidence that gratitude builds social resources by strengthening relationships and promoting prosocial actions.

Gratitude is when we take the time to notice and appreciate the good things in our life, especially those small everyday things that might otherwise go unnoticed.

So how do we practice gratitude in our community?

Start by expressing thanks to someone in your community that has had a positive impact on your life or even just your day. This could be a local business owner or shop assistant that always provides excellent or friendly service, a community member that does great things for your area, a local sporting coach who gives up their time and energy for your children, or a neighbour who is always there to help out.

It’s not always obvious that we appreciate others, so taking a few seconds out of your day to say thank you can have a massive impact on someone day! Write them a quick note, send a thank you text, or take them some flowers from your garden – say thanks in whatever way you like.

4. Donate

Like volunteering, donating can be a wonderful way to give back to your community and help those in need.

There are many ways to donate, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Giving whatever you can, whenever you can; whether that be money, food, clothing, toys, household items or essentials can all make a huge difference. Even giving your old blankets or towels to your local animal shelter is a great way to help out without breaking the bank.

Why not get the whole family involved, allowing your children to help out will teach them about the value of giving to others.

Donating doesn’t have to be just monetary or physical items either, you could donate your time to local events or causes that interest you. You might even enjoy it and feel good in the process!

5. Connect

Creating connections with people within your community is a fantastic way to become involved and can be very rewarding.

Ask around in your local area and see if there are any community groups or classes that interest you! If there isn’t one – why not create one! Even online groups using social media can be a wonderful way to promote connection and add value to your community.

My husband and eldest son who is 11 just started playing doubles together at our local tennis club, and joining this community has been a really positive experience for the whole family!

Whether you’re into art and craft, sports, books, gardening, woodwork, running, wine; or even a walking or mums/dads group (with or without wine J). Whatever interests you! Check out what’s happening in your area and get involved!

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