Why Connection and Community is important to Human Wellbeing

Human connection can be physical whether that is a gentle touch of the hand, a warm embrace, or the slight ruffle of a child’s hair, but connection can also be as slight as relating to the punch line of a joke or having the same favourite film as your neighbour. Connection is dancing in a crowd or feeling shards of grass beneath bare feet. When people or things are connected, community forms. Communities are groups of people that share something in common with one another, whether that is an interest, area you live in, belief, or another lifestyle choice. As humans, these words constantly intersect our everyday life, perhaps even on an hourly basis. They are two very important terms, but why, and how have they become so vital to our survival? 

After our fascinating phone call, Joanna McQueen (from Sunday Assembly Brighton) shared some links with me from the charity Health in Mind, organisation Action for Happiness, and a government report. She provided this evidence to help me understand the benefits of connection and community. 

The Office for National Statistics revealed that younger adults aged 16 to 24 years reported feeling lonely more often than those in older age groups (2016-2017).

This can tell us two key things: young people are more socially isolated, and so we need to reduce the risk of becoming lonely earlier in life. Encouraging teenagers to be more social by talking to strangers and networking, and joining new communities like Sunday Assembly can minimise this statistic. 

People most at risk of loneliness include older widowed homeowners, unmarried middle-agers, and young renters who have little sense of belonging to their area. These, especially if they have long-term health conditions, are the people that we should be looking out for most. 

But all people can get lonely, even if that is only temporarily. Annie Macmanus, DJ, podcaster, broadcaster and author, recently published a The Observer article about how her feelings of loneliness shocked her. The irony is, it is a human emotion that connects us, and being able to admit to this feeling is the first step to overcoming it. Hopefully the significance of community and connection is becoming more evident. 

Action for Happiness says, “feeling connected to other people is at the heart of happiness – theirs and ours” suggesting that relating to, loving and caring for others is beneficial to the other person’s wellbeing as well as our own.

It is not only important to maintain relationships you already have, but to build new ones too. Smiling at a stranger in the street, or becoming a regular in the local coffee shop, or inviting your neighbour round for dinner are all small but generous gestures. 

Knowing that you have close and loving relationships with individual people increases our feeling of self worth, while being connected to a community can make us feel like we belong. We can all help others increase these feelings of validation and connection by being good listeners and by giving people your full attention.

Finally, in considering the importance of connection and community, I want to return to the key root of Sunday Assembly: what it means to be human and share experiences.

What is the meaning of life is the biggest debate in the history of philosophy, but Action for Happiness simplifies it by suggesting that from meaning stems happiness. Once we start realising that we, and everything we do has purpose, we start to feel stronger bonds to the people and world around us. Together we should celebrate the small things, like making a cup of tea on a rainy day for the purpose of giving us warmth and comfort. Or, taking part in the parents race in order to teach the young audience how to be a good team player. My mum used to tell me that a problem shared is a problem halved and I suppose the same applies to joy too. Celebration shared is happiness multiplied. 

In order to reflect on your feelings, whether that is loneliness, insecurity, anxiety, belonging or achievement, journalling is a lovely way to allow you to reconnect with yourself.

Below are some writing prompts to help you consider where you could be making improvements in your own life to prevent loneliness. 

What communities are you a part of, and how do you feel included in these groups?

What does ‘belonging’ mean to you? 

How do you connect with your body, and how do you connect to your mind? 

How can you make someone feel included, loved or happy today? 

Who are you grateful for in your life? Reach out to them and tell them how you feel. 

Helpful links – 

health-in-mind.org.uk/resources/5-ways-to-wellbeing

actionforhappiness.org/10-keys/relating

actionforhappiness.org/10-keys/meaning

Sunday Assembly Brighton, a space for community and connection, turns 10 this Sept – read article HERE

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.