Wellness Wednesday: Value in Community

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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When you think of social interaction, what is your initial reaction? Maybe you identify more as an extrovert, happily soaking in every moment of a social gathering. Or, maybe you prefer a more introverted lifestyle, recharging fully and easily on your own, without the crowd. Everyone holds their unique preferences when it comes to social interaction with others; however, in all cases, surrounding yourself with some sort of community (large or small, group or partner) is imperative, and our utmost well being depends on it. In fact, this idea is supported by years of research. An on-going research project on happiness conducted by Harvard researchers over the last 80 years continues to land on one key finding: long, happy, and healthy lives rely on the basis of close relationships, much greater than that of even money, success, status, etc. 

“Social Neuroscience”, an area of study which seeks to understand what takes place in the brain during social interaction, has recently revealed the neural complexity shown when interacting socially, with neuroimaging showing the involvement of large neural networks and cognitively demanding processes. This network of activity fires among several parts of the brain, and is thought to establish functionally by late childhood, maturing throughout adolescence and adulthood. Thus, the brain initially “pre-wires” itself for sociability. Furthermore, the complex brain activity stimulated by social cognition (the psychological processes that occur as humans interact) leads to necessary adaptation and optimized brain health among individuals. 

All this to say, material possessions and a highly elevated ego will only get us so far.  We need adequate, authentic relationships to stimulate continuous growth. Whether you’re the life of the party, or you prefer to stay in the comfort of your home, community involvement undoubtedly benefits overall wellness, and it can serve as an effective strategy when improving overall health. For example, pursuing a health goal with a friend that has similar goals and/or interests usually provides great accountability, which in and of itself has psychological explanations. Additionally, many experience a greater sense of achievement when surrounded by supportive and encouraging friends and family. Sometimes, even the presence of others is enough to elicit extra motivation. 

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Fortunately, many communities provide several amenities in which to engage in community-centered activity, and Bainbridge offers a broad scope of easily accessible recreational activities! For example, the YMCA is a great recreational center with group fitness classes, personal training (for more one-on-one accountability), and a space to join friends for an effective workout. If you prefer to meet outside, check out the miles of Boat Basin trails, playground and beach area, fitness court, and more in that area. I personally love running by fellow community members, giving me that extra push of motivation (as mentioned earlier) with even just a wave and a smile. Bainbridge also offers several recreational fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, pickleball courts, and golf courses within the city.

As you can see, multiple options exist for appreciable community activities, and even just engaging in these activities once or twice a week can benefit your health and overall outlook. Even for you fellow introverts! Great value lies within community: psychologically, spiritually, and physically. So, may you go out and find it!