-by DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Coach. Jessica Pass, LMFT
A six part series on how to live a fuller happier life, Part 2: Inviting Community
Community is often described as a group that shares common values and helps one another. Communities are not mutually exclusive, as a matter of fact, they thrive on a mutual exchange between individuals that share common interests, morals and direction. These days the idea of community encompasses the internet and social media, making it increasingly difficult to connect face-to-face or over shared experience. It is becoming more common to keep up with friends via their Facebook newsfeed or through “tweets” throughout the day. Unfortunately, even with the ability to reach people all over the planet in a matter of clicks, the lack of physical interaction and face-to-face contact, creates feelings of isolation and loneliness.
In a study conducted by Kraut and Patterson, et al 1998, on “The Internet Paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and well-being?” the researchers conclude greater internet usage is associated with increased depression, loneliness and social isolation. What I find so intriguing about this article is how it was written before the Facebook phenomenon, increasing my curiosity in what the findings would show in today’s world. Personally, I find this to be true, especially during my transition to Houston from Los Angeles. Two years ago I packed up my car and with the help of a friend drove over 1200 miles to call Houston my home. I left behind five years of developing friendships, a community, professional network and favorite studios, restaurants and cafes that took a few years to develop and nurture. It wasn’t until my move that I realized how increasingly lonely life can get as you get older and your community changes, whether through a move, job change, life stage transition, break-up or converting to a different religious belief.
During this phase of my transition and throughout the past two years, I’ve spent more time on Facebook “connecting” with friends and observing from a distance what they eat, what they do on the weekends, how their babies have grown and what new and exciting adventures they are experiencing. I began noticing a while back how much I was logging on to Facebook during downtime throughout the day, when I’d wake up and before bed. I mean really! How much Facebook does one person need throughout the day? I began to find myself envying others, becoming less grateful for my own blessings and feeling bored with my life. Who wouldn’t with beautiful pictures of exotic places filling their newsfeeds, the gorgeous wedding photos and beautiful babies! I’m almost embarrassed to say it but what I was doing was feeding my need for community, belonging and connection with a superficial form of relating. I began noticing that clicking on Facebook was a reaction to feeling lonely and disconnected and after browsing I’d feel even more isolated. Even worse, when things were going well in my life I had to post a status to feel supported and get feedback. And even in my joy, I had few to actually celebrate with, creating a feeling of sadness at my most exciting times. Without the physical community to share my experiences with, positive or negative, I struggled to find a “home” and feel like I belonged.
Who do you celebrate with? Do you feel celebrated or a strong sense of belonging? My hope is that your answer would reflect your felt experience of being supported by a greater community around you. That you had and currently have a place where you feel loved, nurtured and inspired by others around you seeking out a common interest or goal.
If you are having difficulty answering those questions or realize that like me, you have relied primarily on superficial connection and community for too long, and are longing to fill the void which is the human need for community, seek out people who you feel reflect your deepest values and are those that you will feel inspired by. Seek out a place that builds you up and one that you can contribute to. One that extends open arms to those less fortunate and keeps you grounded in gratitude. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that you need, like patience, kindness and understanding. Accept support and allow the healing power of another’s love to extend into your deepest feelings of disconnection and sadness.
My community that I have found all these things in is DEFINE. And I believe that this is why DEFINE has impacted the lives of so many and keeps clients coming back. With local charity support, community involvement, shared emphasis on physical wellness, energetic and inspiring instructors and owner Henry Richardson’s commitment to improving lives through a creative method, DEFINE has become a community and home to so many in Houston. Get out there, search for a community that you can call home or re-engage with a community that you have become distant from. Notice how connection, interaction and common goals and interests shifts your internal state from isolation to connection, how your outlook shifts in a positive direction and how inspired you feel throughout your daily life to live more fully and happily.
DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Coach Jessica Pass is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Instructor at DEFINE body & mind. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, specializing with children, adolescents, individuals, couples and parents. Jessica’s approach incorporates mind-body integration, education and practical strategies to improve emotional wellness, emphasizing all aspects of who we are to live fully and thrive in our relationships.
More from Jessica’s series: