No matter how many tools, tips, or hacks you have for yourself, there’s nothing that can replace human connection. In-person, face-to-face, doing… whatever. Sometimes even just sitting in silence with someone is all you need.
As we become connected to the global community through online activities and social media, it’s important that we remain connected to the people within walking distance.
Why, you ask? Studies reviewed in PLOS One show that loneliness and social isolation is a risk factor for early death. Depression and other mental health issues can contribute to feelings of loneliness or cause a person to isolate themselves. So it’s especially important for those of us living with depression to seek out and maintain healthy social connections.
Who are the people in your area that you can count on?
What communities are you a part of?
If you find it hard to answer these questions, it could be time to start searching for community. Or if you’re struggling to find the right people or groups for you, why not build your own?
Friends or connections both near and far
The internet provides an incredible opportunity for us all to find our tribe — no matter where it is in the world. Whatever your passions are — even if they might be considered quirky by some — you’ll find a community who shares them somewhere online. It’s a big part of why so many of us spend time online.
And this is especially true if you live in a smaller or more rural area, as the events and resources locally might not have the same variety as a more populated place.
So, your challenge is to find the right mix of what you can achieve with an online community, who in your area you can connect with, and what you’ll do on a regular basis.
When I moved to Vancouver from a much smaller city, I knew I wanted to dive into the creative community. To get started, I spent a few hours scouring everything I could find online. That’s how I came across free events like Creative Mornings, and how I met so many amazing people.
A few tips on finding out what’s going on locally:
- Search Twitter and Instagram by locations, hashtags, and keywords.
- Check your local paper or the hottest blog from your area.
- Look on Meetup to see if anything fits your vibe.
- Find an organization you’re passionate about and volunteer your time.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
This may be challenging. I speak from experience, having dealt with major social anxiety in the past. But, it’s truly marvelous what you’ll find on the other side of those fears our minds craft about attending that event or finally joining the group.
In a lot of ways, many of us have become way out of touch and sucked into the vast online world accessed through these little screens.
Challenge yourself to break old habits and jolt back to the reality around you. Go move your body, get outside, and be around other people. You’d be surprised at what a little movement or quality time with friends can do to help improve your mood.
If your searches leave you feeling unfulfilled, then it’s time for you to…
Be the change you wish to see in the world
This sentiment is often shared online. And it became real for me when I started to catch myself asking things of people (and the world). I realized that instead of becoming frustrated or angry when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I could be the person to lead the way.
There are no special skills or characteristics needed, you just have to take the steps.
To help you, here are some ways to help build community:
- Start your own group on Meetup (in-person) or on Facebook or Reddit (online).
- Share a call-to-action to find others. (e.g., “Our city needs an art collective.”)
- Be first to invite that person from work to hang out on the weekend.
Make connections, don’t wait for them to happen
When I discovered the healing power of photography for depression and anxiety in my own life, I tried to find others who knew about this. When no one appeared, I started The One Project.
We’re blessed with incredible tools that help us stay connected 24/7 with nearly anyone around the globe. Just make sure the quality of your connections is high and helps keep you (and others) from feeling lonely.
So, what’s your next step?
DEPR-US-NP-00036 OCTOBER 2018