How can your community impact your mental health? Does the community we’re in really matter when it comes to how we feel?
Let’s try something, close your eyes and reflect back on your experiences over the past year. While you’re reflecting notice who is there. Take note of the faces and people in your memories and notice how you feel having them there. Was it stressful? Did you feel supported? Notice how the people in our lives, neighborhoods and community impact our lives.
Communities can be sources for strength and well as stress. Our neighbors and friends, folx at the grocery and coffee shop, classmates and teachers all affect our lives, even if we aren’t fully aware of it. Research shows us that individuals who feel more connected to their friends, family and community report being happy, tend to live longer and carry less stress. Likewise the opposite can be true. Disconnect or tumult within friend, family or community groups can decrease happiness and affect our physical health.
So how do we develop a “mental health minded community?”
Start anywhere! You don’t have to do much work to begin building a community that’s more mental health friendly. There are a variety of places and ways you can start. Here are some examples:
- Lend a hand — helping a neighbor, in even a small way, can begin to build community connection.
- Normalize mental health issues — when someone talks about mental health issues (I’m stressed, I’m anxious, I’m sad etc.) you can show support by simply acknowledging that it’s “normal” to feel these feelings at times and it’s ok they feel them.
- Practice empathy and compassion — showing others compassion and empathy is beneficial to not just their wellbeing, but our own as well.
- Meet basic needs — if you live in a community where basic needs aren’t being met, you can work to enhance the livelihood of others by voting, reaching out to representatives, working with community organizations or starting your own group to help decrease disparities.
- Think beyond your neighborhood — sometimes we don’t feel especially connected to those physically around us, maybe we’re isolated or disconnected from others. You can build community with those physically near you or in other places including groups, clubs, gyms, religious orgs, neighborhood associations, volunteering etc.
If you have started to work on building a more mentally healthy community — tell us your story! We’d love to share it!