The Importance of Community Engagement
Read Time: 2 min 17 sec
The coronavirus outbreak has created a “new normal” in our society. For many Americans, our homes have become our offices, we make fewer trips to the grocery store, avoid public places and have much less connection to our community than we once did. Despite our best intentions, our social interactions may have changed significantly. More and more conversations, meetings and celebrations are taking place through virtual platforms.
Being an active community member is vital because humans are social and need personal connection. A sense of community can provide support, purpose, and a feeling of belonging. These elements are critical to our mental health – especially when we may already be experiencing symptoms of loneliness and isolation. During this time, it is important to find new ways to stay connected and feel needed.
The Importance of Giving
For most of us, giving makes us feel great – we get to support others, show our kindness, and connect with our community.
When was the last time you did something nice for someone? If the answer doesn’t come to mind quickly, it’s time to take action. Let’s face it, we all appreciate it when someone does something nice for us. But did you know the helper is getting something as well?
Numerous scientific reports document the health benefits that helping others provides. Acts of kindness improve emotional health, self-esteem and even physical problems. People often describe a “helper’s high” that accompanies a good deed. This feeling of satisfaction comes from the release of chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that also reduce anxiety and tension. That explains why folks in pain often feel an improvement in symptoms when doing good deeds. Studies show the “high” happens in nearly 95% of all people.
Whether large or small, any amount of time or effort you can offer is shown to have positive effects on your mental health.
How to Get Involved
When looking for ways to stay connected to your community, focus on your interests. What do you feel passionate about? What are your values and beliefs? What charities and organizations do you have an interest in? How can you inspire a sense of community in your neighborhood?
Simple ways to stay connected:
- Read the paper and watch the local news for volunteer opportunities
- Check with your neighbors to see if they need a hand (e.g., grocery shopping, mowing the lawn)
- VolunteerMatch – find ways to connect in your area either virtually or in-person
- Donate blood
- Support local business:
- Purchase gift cards for your local businesses
- Leave generous tips for service industry workers
- Share local business on social media to help drum up more business for them
- Register to vote
- Start your own community social media page or community virtual group. Think about the impact that would have on those around you and how it would strengthen your community.
- Donate to a charity
- Sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) – support your local farms and get great produce in the process.
- Staying connected to your community is important for our emotional health and well-being
- Start small: see if you can connect locally with your neighbors and community (picking up groceries, mowing the lawn, etc.)
- Support local businesses by buying gift cards
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to support local farmers
- Register to vote
- Support a charity
- The act of giving and volunteering is a great way to be helpful, but also boost your mental well-being