The little things (that are not so little): the importance of community for mental wellbeing
with Amel Chekete, Founder of WeMind
One thing we can all agree on is that the past few years have shown us how much isolation can negatively affect our mental wellbeing. Humans are social beings and deeply need to feel a sense of belonging while also having access to a strong support system.
Through my mental wellbeing journey, I often found myself seeking alone time. I loved spending time alone (if I am honest, I still do) and taking care of my mental health in ways that nourish and energize my mind, body and soul. However, through my readings and research, I knew that having a strong community benefits mental wellbeing and wellbeing in general. I realized that although I enjoyed my alone time, I also craved connection and wanted to find ways to include community in my mental maintenance or mental fitness routines. I started taking a different approach and incorporated community focused elements to my daily routine: sharing my journey on social media, making it a priority to check in with friends, family and neighbours and incorporating group workouts or walks with friends into my routine.
The impact these seemingly small changes had on my mental wellbeing was greater than I ever thought. I found that being with and helping others gave me a sense of purpose as well as sense of belonging. During this time is when I stumbled across the term: Community Care. In simple terms, caring for ourselves as a community means taking care of each other and creating a supportive environment where everyone can thrive. We are not meant to be alone in this world, and learning from one another is how the world continues to improve.
Simple ways to care for our community
Caring for our community can be as simple as smiling at a stranger or lending a helping hand. It can also be more organized and structured, like volunteering for a local organization. When we take care of each other, we create a stronger, more resilient community. Here are some ideas you can use your community to support your wellbeing:
1. Get involved in local organizations that align with your values. There are likely many local organizations that focus on issues that you care about. Getting involved can help you feel connected to something larger than yourself and can give you a sense of purpose.
2. Offer help when you can. One of the best ways to feel good is to do good for others. If you see someone in your community who could use some help, offer it! Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference. Don’t forget to make a specific offer. Instead of saying "let me know how I can help", anticipate someone's needs, make an offer and follow through when the offer is accepted.
3. Check in on your neighbours. Getting to know the people who live near you can create a sense of connection and belonging. Check in regularly, but make it intentional. Often "How are you?" is asked automatically, sometimes without even waiting for an answer. The aim is to be more purposeful about our check ins and creating genuine connections.
4. Empathize. Empathy is not about feeling bad for someone. It’s a way to validate someone’s thoughts and feelings and let them know they’re seen. Being more empathetic can help in understanding each other, therefore being kinder to each other and building genuine relationships.
5. Socialize for real. In a productivity-focused world, let's not forget to take time relax and just enjoy each other's company!
I truly believe that caring for our community is the foundation of togetherness; that when we take care of our community, we are taking care of ourselves. It is an important part of self-care and mental wellbeing as it helps us to feel connected, supported and reminds us that we are not alone in this world. Yes, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other, and when we do, everyone benefits.