The strength and vitality of our communities: our relationships with neighbours, friends, family and colleagues are the very foundations on which our wellbeing is built.
The stress of modern life is a familiar refrain. Juggling work, family, the rising cost of living and other responsibilities mean it’s no wonder that many people find it impossible to “give something back”. Yet giving our time to something we believe in is good for us. Time spent talking with neighbours helps us to build connections that can bring invaluable rewards. Supporting a common goal gives us a sense of purpose and brings meaning to our lives. The good news is that there’s lots that we can do, and everyone has a role to play.
Here is a brief three-step guide to getting involved in your local community.
Start with your passion
We have more energy, creativity and motivation when we are doing what we love. It therefore makes sense to focus our energy on doing something that we feel passionate about.
What do you love to do? Are you outdoorsy or happier in front of a computer? Do you like connecting with a group or prefer one-on-one and alone time?
Are you a natural organiser or do you like to let others lead? Do you like speaking in public or prefer writing? Are you an ideas person or someone who loves to get the details right?
What strengths, gifts and talents do you love to share? Are you an artist with lots of ideas? Do you excel at DIY? Are you good with finances? Do you have a practical or professional skill that you can offer?
What change would you love to see in your community that you are willing to work with others help make it happen? Are you worried about kids not having a place to play, or about isolated older people on your street? Do you have a bright idea for a vacant building or an underused local park? Or are you worried about a development that will damage the area in which you live?
Whoever and however you are, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in all sorts of projects to improve community life. And when we pursue our passions, work becomes easy and we have fun!
Building wellbeing in our community is also much easier when we work with others and share their passions. Which brings us to Connect…
Connecting with others is the single best way to improve our personal wellbeing. That’s why it’s the first of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Connecting with others, at every stage, is also the best way to build community wellbeing. Together we can do anything!
Thinking about connecting invites us to look at what’s good about the community in which we live – its ‘assets’, so to speak. What do you really love about your community? What’s special about your community, that others will also care about? To learn more about this approach check out Asset Based Community Development).
Who else is active in your community? Which individuals, groups or organisations share your passion. It’s likely that dozens and possibly hundreds of people are already actively doing things to improve the community in which you live.
You could start simply with a conversation. Share these questions above with a friend, a neighbour, or a colleague. Ask their advice. Or you could go further. Many local libraries keep lists of groups and societies – and many national organisations can point you to their local branches. You could search your local newspaper, or online to see who is doing what. You could look out for opportunities to meet others whether it be at a school fete, church jumble sale or council consultation. If you talk to people about what you want to achieve, you’ll often find they share your concern.
Remember you can build wellbeing in your community however you choose! Which brings us to… Have fun!
3. Have fun!
Our wellbeing suffers when we focus on what’s wrong’ on risks, problems, limitations and lack. Our wellbeing grows when we focus on our strengths and successes. Of course, it’s important to spot problems, risks, weaknesses and gaps and to learn from so called ‘failures’. However, these ‘failures’ are often opportunities to grow and to improve!
Have fun and celebrate successes at every stage, rather than focus on how far there is to go. Be gentle with yourself and others and remember that everyone is doing their best! You might like to start and / or end each day by celebrating and being grateful for what went well. You might like to invite others to join you in this.
There’s no blueprint for building community wellbeing. It can start with kind words to neighbours and helping friends make a difference. Supporting existing activities is invaluable. Setting up new activities is challenging, but can bring the greatest rewards. It doesn’t matter whether what you do is a one-off or done regularly. Whatever you are inspired to do can help. Have fun, celebrate it and invite others to celebrate with you!
To learn more, check out:
- Ideas and suggestions for improving community wellbeing
- Inspiring examples of community wellbeing projects
- Connect to the Network of Wellbeing, so we can build wellbeing together