The Importance of mixing with the community

Posted on: 14 August 2014 by Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw examines ways to strengthen ties to your community and safeguard people against isolation and loneliness.

Being part of a community means different things to different people. For many a community offers a sense of security, trust, togetherness and an ability to support each other. Perhaps the younger generation feels they don't need the community support as much as the elderly.  Maybe these values aren’t so important to businesses unless they rely on local clientele.  But the more vulnerable we are the more we rely on our community and we are all likely to be vulnerable at some point in our lives.

A community is often defined as people of a district, unified by social values and responsibilities.

When we feel a sense of belonging we automatically feel less stressed.  To know that we are accepted is a fundamental need for our physical and mental wellbeing.  Equally, to have the opportunity to give and receive kindness is the best way to make sure all those wonderful neurotransmitters in our brain are in the greatest state possible.

Community mix up week is just around the corner on 22nd-28th September (www.communitymixup.com) and it’s the perfect time to celebrate and give back to your community. It’s very easy to get on with day to day life and forget about the people around you, particularly people who are isolated. Seize the moment and be a part of your community, hold an event big or small and get as many people involved as possible. It could be anything from a coffee morning, a charity challenge or giving someone a lift to the local shops.

If you have just moved to a new community initially it can be a daunting experience. It's important to be yourself, to gauge the people around you and to strike the right balance to make new friends.

For those already well-established in the community, it is best not to make quick judgements of someone new and to welcome diversity. Always actively encourage new people to your community, new people means the opportunity to make friends. For most, being part of a community is part of having a supportive, well-connected life but these days more often than not we don't fully appreciate how valuable that is.

Thinking about your community may be a time for reflection. Is your community supporting the needs of everyone? Here are my top tips for mixing well in your community.

10 tips on how to mix well in your community

 Isolation underpins both mental & your community:  Talking to new people, spending a little time with someone who might be alone or even throwing a party open to newbies can make an enormous difference.  Mix up gender, age and cultural backgrounds so that we can learn from one another and have fun.

Don't be obvious:  Don’t just mix with people like yourself.  If you have a young family, have a chat with someone in their 80s.  If you don’t work, offer to drive someone vulnerable to their medical appointments and have a lovely chat with them in the car whilst you do so.

Welcome:  When someone moves into your immediate community always try and make an effort to welcome them in because they may not know anyone in the area.

Events: Get involved! Holding events is a great way to make new friends, do something positive and celebrate good community spirit whether it be a fun street party, spring fete or a cake sale. Compete in a challenge or host a fundraising event to raise money for your favourite charity, which could be put back into improving the community.  Get out of your comfort zone and sit in a tub of baked beans for a day!

Be a hub: Producing community newsletters or having a community website is a fantastic way to create a sense of community spirit and to publicise any local events and provide advertising for local businesses. If you are good at writing and think you can get an energetic team together to help then become a media tycoon!

Accept change: Change can be really positive for a community including new housing, roads, convenience shops, schools, business parks or a new place of worship.  Yes it may be a bit inconvenient when things are being built but try to take a long term view of it.

Get your message out: Contact your local newspaper, television or radio station and tell them your community mix-up story.

Arrange a visit: If you are a school, scout group or another small local group then link up with your local women’s institute group or visit a care-home.  Make someone else’s day!

Everyone is part of the community: Sit with a homeless person for half an hour and show them they are not invisible.

Learn from the vulnerable: Contact local relevant groups like groups for children with special needs and get them involved in a community mix-up event.

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