I grew up in a rural Ohio. Our house was settled among the woods between two towns, each populated by 1,000 people. I’ve always been shy, and I still consider myself an introvert, needing time by myself to rest and reenergize.
However, after beginning my psychotherapy practice in Boulder, I soon found myself drawn to Lafayette, where my wife, Kelsey, and I live. Having my practice in Boulder, I felt disconnected from Lafayette, which I perceived as having a strong sense of community. I wanted to be more a part of that community, and I decided to move my practice to Old Town.
This past weekend, I participated in a networking group I started for Lafayette professionals, and Kelsey and I also volunteered at the Peach Festival, selling smoothies and cobbler at the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce tent. During (and after) each of these events, I felt joy and excitement.
And, to be honest, I felt proud. Both of these events felt out of character for me – I am not typically seeking out groups of people, particularly on my down time. It felt good to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone, especially because the experiences felt so positive.
The Benefits of Community
As I reflect on my experiences this past weekend, I’m not so surprised that even an introvert like me would find benefits in community, and I understand better my desire to move my office to the town in which I live so that I can become more a part of the community. Community is a central aspect of the “Social” layer of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and it’s part (and, I would argue, contains aspects of almost all) of one of the largest categories on the Center for Nonviolent Communication’s Needs Inventory: “Connection.”
Connection provides many benefits: belonging and inclusion, acceptance, understanding, seeing others and being seen. Within a network of people organized around common values and goals, connection can also provide trust, security, and safety. Studies have also shown that people who feel connected have overall better functioning immune systems, experience higher self-esteem, and often feel less anxious and depressed (for examples, this article on Psychology Today is a gre