Finding Healthy Community
Having community is critical for our mental and emotional wellbeing. As we continue to climb out of the effects of the isolation during the COVID pandemic, we are more certain of that fact. Gallup has been tracking the loneliness of the US and although that number peaked in March of 2021 at 25% of individuals feeling extreme loneliness. Those numbers have gone down to 17% more recently, but there is still concern amongst our lower income and young adult populations with loneliness still shadowing a quarter or more of their respected demographics.
The United State Surgeon General has found the effects of loneliness to go beyond feeling blue and isolated. A study warns that the physical consequences of poor connection can be devastating, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease; a 32% increased risk of stroke; and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. “Social connection reduces the risk of premature mortality. It can predict better physical and mental health outcomes and ease stress. Higher levels of connection can influence health-related behaviors. Connection can even impact educational and economic achievement.”
An article from NPR suggests several approaches to the loneliness epidemic; two of which are Strengthening social infrastructure, which includes things like parks and libraries as well as public programs and Cultivating a culture of connection. We couldn’t agree more! In fact, since 1844, the YMCA has made it’s mission to land in communities and create a safe space for those who live there. The Y plays an instrumental role in times of crises, providing essential services and support when and where it was needed most. We also adapted to the evolving landscape of health and well-being with new programs and partnerships designed to support generational changes in young people and modern-day families.
Wherever there’s a Y, there’s sure to be programs to specifically fit the needs of the local population. Here are a few of our favorite programs:
"LIVESTRONG at the YMCA brings together a special group of people who are going through a difficult time in their lives, and provides a community of support from one another. At the end of the 12-week program, there is a deep sense of friendship as they celebrate their successes and speak on how they are going to continue to support each other beyond the program. It is truly an honor to be part of LIVESTRONG at the YMCA."
- Marcy Kezar, Health & Wellness Manager, Armbrust YMCA
"Pickleball at the Southwest YMCA is a community unlike any other. No matter the skill level, the age, or background. Any new face that comes into the gym is welcomed and has three people introducing themselves and inviting them for coffee when they're done playing. It is truly one of the most welcoming and accepting group of people I have come across in my time across multiple facilities and states."
- Zach Himmelberg, Membership Director, Southwest YMCA
"To me, family programming brings our community together. Family programming is meant to encompass the entire family unit and spend time together. When bringing families in and mixing them nothing feels better. You never know what family you may be engaging with and what we can learn from each other."
- Carrie Walter, Youth & Family Director, Gretna Crossing YMCA
Maybe you are new to a community or are just changing the crowd you prefer to surround yourself with; Introducing yourself to a new space can be intimidating. As an organization who strives to keep our Core Values of creating a Caring, Honest, Responsible, and Respectful community; the Y is a great place to take the chance on finding meaningful connections.
Stop at your Y Welcome Center! They will know about all of the programs going on in your branch or can direct you to someone who does. Don’t forget – most Y’s have community rooms where you could even host your own group with similar interests... cards, crafts, collectibles!
Ask a friend or acquaintance to join you for a group fitness class or Small Group Training. A walk with an old or new friend can also be soul-filling!
Libraries, local school functions, religious organizations, and other community events. Add these community based locations to your Facebook feed or subscribe to emails to see where you might find like minded community.
Volunteer! The Y has many ways you can serve your community, as do so many other great organizations. Lean into your passions and give your time to those efforts.
If your loneliness persists, please reach out to a professional. Not all loneliness is a quick fix and may take a multifaceted approach. For immediate help call 1-800-622-HELP. This link will help you find someone in the area who can help with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
We can’t wait to see where you find a place at your Y. If you’ve already found a strong sense of community, tell us about it HERE!
Jerilynn Campos, Health & Wellness Manager, Gretna Crossing YMCA