Returning to this occasional series on the basic psychological needs. Today the focus is on our need for community.
Human beings are essentially social animals. Throughout history, from the earliest times we have lived in groups and depended on each other. This has been part of our success, if we can call it that.
To varying degrees, people need people. One of the basic psychological needs that must be fulfilled to keep you free from depression and anxiety is that sense of community. More than this it is about making a contribution to others. Essentially, you need to feel part of something larger than yourself, part a community of people, working for something that has meaning and significance.
As with all of the needs covered in these articles, this need overlaps with others we have discussed. Being part of a community can also give you greater ‘significance‘. Taking part in a community project can give your life more ‘meaning‘. It can also fulfill your need for ‘attention‘ and help you feel ‘safe and secure‘.
What about us loners?
Some of us consider ourselves as preferring our own company, or having a small select group of friends. The need for community is still there but it is not compelling. On the other hand I see many clients who struggle when their very small community of family and friends shrinks even more. For these people the way back to establishing a small group of connections is often to take part in something bigger. By joining a club or getting involved in a project they extend their social reach. Ultimately they then settle into a small number of friendships once more,
If you find yourself increasingly cut off, or have lost friends because of a change in circumstances the consequent feelings of loneliness can be very painful. Here are a few ways you can better fulfill that sense of community and begin to feel better.
- Find out what options there are for volunteering. Charity shops, hospitals, homeless shelters, animal rescue, whatever feels important to you.
- Is there something missing in your local community. Could you start talking to people about how you could make it better.
- Join a small group of people interested in something that you like doing. Meetups are great for this. They put enthusiasts in touch with each other. If there isn’t already one near you, then you could even consider setting one up yourself.
- Join in more at work, if that is possible – attend socials, accept invitations, take part in charity activities
The key, with all of these suggestions is to make sure that what you are involved in is appealing to you. It should be an interest or a passion – something you really care about. If you are doing something you like doing, your enthusiasm will attract others and you will naturally find yourself talking to others and taking part.
Remember too that as with all the basic human needs, this is about making small improvements. You don’t have to make big changes to feel better. Just by walking in a park that others are enjoying you can feel a sense of community. Even sitting in a buzzing cafe alone, you can choose to feel a part of that without speaking to a soul.
If you are struggling with loneliness, depression, or simply feel a need to feel more fulfilled in life then consider getting in touch with a life coach (e.g. Darshika Bower, Robert Sanders, Carole Thornton). Counselling may also be of help.
As always, it is also important to see your doctor if you suffer severely from any these problems.