It’s important to feel a sense of belonging at work, in romantic relationships, and in the communities in which you take part—basically in every facet of life. That's because research has found that having a sense of connection and belonging is “a significant predictor of mental health and well-being in later life.” And establishing this bond doesn't have to be strenuous work. In fact, if you’re able to, taking a daily walk to feel connected to your community is one of the easiest ways to boost your well-being and sense of belonging to the place you call home.
Taking a daily walk to feel connected can be so powerful. “When we feel depressed or anxious, we can tend to self-isolate and withdraw, which can further the spiral of depression and anxiety,” says psychologist Selena Snow, PhD. But when you step out of the house and into your neighborhood, you'll quickly be reminded that you're not alone and are immersed in a community of people who could support you.
- Selena Snow, PhD, licensed psychologist and founder of Snow Psychology Group, LLC
3 benefits of taking daily walk to feel connected to your community
1. Helps you casually socialize with community members
Daily walks provide a great opportunity for chance encounters with members of your community who may also be out and about. This, in turn, can facilitate a greater sense of belonging in you to the community as a whole. In addition to building up this connection to your community, conversing with community members and neighbors serves as casual socializing, which is also connected to increased wellness.
“Feeling connected to your community can…remind you that you are a part of something larger than just yourself.” —psychologist Selena Snow, PhD
Dr. Snow suggests making a point to greet folks you pass to boost a sense of connectedness to your community by way of one-on-one interaction. “Many people will smile or nod at you or exchange your greeting,” says Dr. Snow. “This can be a powerful data point that runs counter to negative thoughts and expectations in your mind about how others may feel about you or react to you.” For example, if you’re (perhaps irrationally) worried that your neighbors might not like you, seeing that they return your greeting can put those anxious feelings at bay.
2. Keeps you grounded and present in your thoughts
When you’re taking a daily walk to feel connected, not only are you putting names to faces and owning your spot in the community, but you’re also giving yourself a (potentially much-needed) mindfulness break that can "serve as a distractor and interrupt your own negative ruminating tendencies,” says Dr. Snow. “While walking, try to notice different things that you might see or hear or smell during your walk. This will enable you to use your physical senses to pay attention to what your body is sensing and get out of your own head where you may be ruminating on negative thoughts.” Once you let go of your unideal notions, it’s easier to open yourself up to having meaningful interactions with your community members.
Taking a daily walk to feel connected takes you out of this cycle and helps you be more present in interacting with your neighbors.
3. Reminds you of your purpose
Having a sense of purpose is tied to longevity, and taking daily walks in your community can connect you to that purpose. “Feeling connected to your community can increase a sense of belonging and remind you that you are a part of something larger than just yourself," Dr. Snow says.
How long your daily walk for connection should be
While benefits of taking daily walks to feel connected are clear, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your habit is most effective.
For instance, you may wonder how long your daily walk needs to be. This figure, says Dr. Snow, is relatively unimportant. In part, that’s because we all have different fitness levels as well as comfort levels for being outside. “The key is to get moving and do something physical, not to necessarily walk a particular distance or duration of time,” says Dr. Snow.
Even if you only take shorter walks, the more you take them, the likelier it is that you’ll develop a sense of belonging and connectedness to your community. This is particularly true when it comes to connecting with people in your neighborhood, says Dr. Snow. “Over time, you can start to lengthen your interaction with others from your community who you routinely see on your walk by commenting on a shared experience, such as the weather or asking a question about something you see them doing regularly,” Dr. Snow adds.
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