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The science behind: The importance of community



The Science of Community


I believe that community can exist on a few different levels.

  • For our own personal happiness and development, studies have shown community and relationship with others to be the single most important factor in perceived happiness.

  • If we extrapolate further, we see that community can be applied to humanity as a whole. If we treat humankind as a community on the macro level, we begin to see that in order for us to not only survive but thrive and evolve, we need to start working together more.


We don’t need studies to show us that things tend to work out better when people work together, but hey, we have them.



Personal Community

One of the longest running studies ever on happiness and adult life, conducted by Harvard, suggests the key to a long and satisfying life is a strong network of close relationships. Not money, career success, or social status – just community.


Robert Waldinger, the study’s current director states that “Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Those who have perceived lack of, or troubled relationships have higher reported rates of stress, unhappiness and depression + anxiety. We also now have research and clinical evidence to show us that stress has POWERFUL effects on our health and body, literally changing out DNA and cells to express disease.


In terms of our own personal connections and feelings of belongingness, empowerment, and self worth, strong community and relationships with others has been shown by countless studies to be the single most important factor in perceived happiness, less stress, and therefore more personal and physical success.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”

Strong, engaged communities can meet four basic psychological needs:

  • Trust: By sharing our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we humanize ourselves to others and allow for connection over common shared experiences.

  • Belonging: Online communities are often created centering around a certain topic, train, skill or whatever. Obviously, if you are a part of that community you subscribe to that central idea, and therefore automatically at least somewhat fit in with the other members.

  • Self worth: When people feel connected to others, they feel better about themselves. When people feel good about who they are, they are more likely to engage with others, forging more connection. The cycle continues.

  • Empowerment: By facilitating strong connections, we facilitate higher self worth. This co-exists with a feeling of empowerment that we can meet goals, make changes, and create waves.


Strong, engaged people can build strong, engaged communities. Eventually, that can change the course of who we are as a society and even species.



Global Community


Dr. Bruce Lipton a PhD in quantum physics an biology has long been a proponent that in order for humanity to evolve, we need community. He argues that the “survival of the fittest” theory was misunderstood to lead to a “survival of the fittest” aka “everybody for themselves” attitude. He believes that instead, Lamarck meant it as more of a “If we work together, we can utilize each others strengths so we can all survive,” type of idea.

“Here’s this beautiful garden…And we’ve turned it into a battleground, and we’re destroying the garden right underneath our feet, because we’re looking at it all based on a competition.”

He goes further to argue, that nature has community, and humanity as it is right now, with its constant competition on every level, is actually in opposition to nature. This leads to physical and cellular breakdown and affects our genes via epigenetics.


A violation of nature you say? That is extreme.


Is it? Lets look a little closer. By definition, a community is an organization of individuals committed to supporting a shared vision. These individuals don’t have to be the same. They can come from different backgrounds and different places. Lets look at our bodies, which can be great examples of both communities in harmony and a communities on completely different levels, creating disease. We have liver cells, heart cells, muscle cells, brain cells, gut cells – all very different, coming from different places with different skills, functions, and even anatomy. But guess what, they all work together in harmony (ideally). They all follow a universal code, work together, and survive. Their existence as a whole depends on it. If some of the cells decide to go out of whack, the body could die, and every cell dies. Not just the ones on revolt. If we extrapolate that to humankind, we see a picture of cells in revolt, and a diseased “body”. We’ve created rifts and differences among us, choosing instead to create wars and focus on what sets us apart. Our systems are toxic, our planet is diseased, and we are not working in harmony. What if we could spread a message wide enough to band together communities, creating a working organism in harmony and not one that is diseased and off balance.


Ok, that last idea was more theoretical, but I think it’s a great way to emphasize the importance of community as an important way for us to heal our bodies, minds, and collective as a whole. The former ideas at the very least have consistently been shown in studies over and over.


Community and succesful personal relationships have been consistently shown in studies to be the most important factor in perceived personal happiness. By focusing on community as a pillar, we add to the evidence backed by research that healthy communities contribute to healthy, happy people, and healthy people as a whole contribute to a healthy global community with the goal of ultimately less violence, more acceptance and a happy planet.


Say hi to your neighbour, change the world!




References

Andrewartha, H.G. and Birch, L.C.: 1984, The Ecological Web, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Jiang, S. P. (2019). Epigenetic Modifications in Stress Response Genes Associated With Childhood Trauma. Front Psychiatry., 808.

MacQueen, K. M. (2001). What Is Community? An Evidence-Based Definition for Participatory Public Health. Am J Public Health, 1929-1938.

Salleh, M. (2008). Life Event, Stress and Illness. Malays J Med Sci., 9-18.

Smith A, Young SD. At the intersection of marketing, technology, and psychology: designing mobile technologies to change health behaviors. J Consum Health Internet. (In Press).

Vaillant, G., McArthur, C., and Bock, A. 2010, "Grant Study of Adult Development, 1938-2000", https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/48WRX9, Harvard Dataverse, V4,

Waldinger, R. (2015, Nov). TEDX: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. Brookline, MA, USA.

Yaribeygi, H. P. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J, 1057–1072.

Young, S.D., & Jordan, A. (2013). The influence of social networking photos on social norms and sexual health behaviors. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(4): 243–247.

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