How To Take Care of Your Mental Health: Join the Right Community!
Positive human interactions can make us happy and wholesome, but the wrong ones can fuel our stress and anxiety. It’s not always easy to know how to take care of your mental health. But there are little changes you can make in your day to day life to help yourself out. For us, that’s joining a community of like-minded individuals.
In fact, there’s numerous studies that prove how being part of a community is linked to higher levels of happiness and therefore a healthier state of mind.
At least, that’s the case when you join the right community.
Joining the wrong communities, or joining a community for the wrong reasons, can have negative effects on our health and wellbeing.
That’s why we’ve taken the time to answer the question "how does community affect our mental health?" along with some tips on how to choose the right one for you.
The Science Of Community
There’s no doubt that there is a link between fostering a sense of community and improved mental wellbeing. Just cast your mind back to how you felt during those gloomy days of lockdown, only socializing with those outside your household over Zoom. Not great, right?
The NHS, in their article about 5 steps to mental wellbeing, puts huge importance on connecting with other people. This is because it helps to elevate our sense of self-worth and offers a source of emotional support.
But why does community affect our mental health? Humans are social creatures and, as such, when we lack human interaction for a prolonged period of time our bodies produce cortisol (a hormone linked to stress).
Over time, that can cause you to experience depressive symptoms and put your immune system at risk. Feeling like part of a community is a surefire way to keep cortisol levels down.
A Boost To Your Mental Wellbeing
It can’t be stressed enough: community is important for our mental health - when it’s done correctly.
As we grow, embark on new adventures, or find new passions, we naturally become part of new communities of people that share a similar journey or interest.
And when we don’t, we find ourselves feeling lonely or misunderstood.
Sharing our thoughts and struggles is key to receive support and positive reinforcement. It gives us a benchmark of what to expect along the journey, and an essential outlet to grow our character and ideas.
When we share, our mind also acknowledges that we’re exercising our power of influence, which in return strengthens our feeling of empowerment. Belonging to a great community is the nutrients and vitamins of our emotional well being and state of mind.
The Negative Side Effects
Unfortunately, social interactions can also be anxiety-inducing too.
What for some can be a nurturing sharing experience, for others can turn into a moment of self-doubt, negative self-talk, and uneasiness.
Sometimes, in addition to - or instead of - lifting each other up, we use social interactions to compare ourselves and evaluate our own behaviour under the values or beliefs of others.
Moreover, we engage in cycles of toxic positivity which prevents us from challenging our biases, reflecting on our own struggles, and opening up our minds to personal growth.
With the proliferation of online communities, it’s even more important to watch out for these unwelcomed effects.
It’s happened to me before. When I became an entrepreneur, I joined multiple groups for Founders and Women In Tech. After a year, I realized most of them weren’t helpful or nurturing my wellbeing, which is what I needed while going through such a difficult journey.
Partly because not many people were there to "give", but also because I wasn’t joining the right communities. It takes trial and error. I was at the first step of the entrepreneurial journey while all the attention went to women who had different career paths (i.e. investors) or founders with years of experience.
Now I only participate in a Whatsapp group with three other entrepreneur friends and that’s where I feel I belong. We’re honest with each other, helpful, and we also celebrate our little wins. It’s my safe go-to channel for bragging and venting.
Quality Over Quantity
Our state of mind suffers when we don’t achieve the right balance in life. We can disagree with our closest confidants, friends, or community members, but ultimately we need to belong to a group in which we feel comfortable.
Somewhere that we don’t have to compromise on our own personal values and interests, and our emotional wealth becomes richer as a result.
Unfortunately, followers or likes are not a new thing, but an extension of behaviour we developed when we were in school.
If you had more friends you were considered to be more popular, so therefore we convinced ourselves that having more friends would make us happier and better.
So when you find yourself in community collection mode, take a moment to reflect on the value you’re getting from it. Will this better your well-being or take away from it?
Run Your Own Community Check
List the communities you believe you get value from and align with your current needs in the following 3 categories:
- Your current journey (a job, a change, or a project);
- Your lifestyle (routine, responsibilities or interests);
- Your struggles (could be anything challenging you’re facing).
Then make a list of the groups you didn’t include, and reflect on the impact that each of them has on your mental wellbeing. Sometimes we stick to certain relationships based on loyalty or habit, but as we evolve as individuals our community needs change too.
When we choose the right community and surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, we’re doing ourselves a world of good. Not only will we boost our happiness levels naturally, but we’ll be keeping those feeling of stress and anxiety at bay.
If you’re not sure if the right community is out there for you, why not take the steps to create your own community, using a platform like Panion. After all, you might just discover one of the quickest and easiest ways to take care of your mental health: a like-minded community.
About the author:
Lamia Pardo is the Founder of Journify.co – an audio journaling app to declutter your mind on the go. For more mental wellbeing resources subscribe to the weekly newsletter and follow Journify on Instagram. She is documenting her own entrepreneurial journey with the Journify app and submitting her records to a COVID-19 project hosted by the Women’s History Museum. You can find her on Linkedin or Twitter at @lamiapf.