I am a person who likes options. I savour the enjoyment that comes from sampling a variety of dishes when eating out with friends. I have a cupboard at home filled with more variations of green tea than most people know exist. I keep more than three thousand songs on my phone at any given time, just in case I’m in the mood to listen to something specific.
Perhaps this comes from a childhood spent pouring over “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, or more likely it stems from a fear of missing out on something exciting. Regardless of the reason, I like to explore my options and ultimately select the meal, item, situation or path that is the best choice for me at the time.
The more work that I do at UBC around mental health and wellbeing, the more I think about the concept of community. What defines communities? Are they created with intention, or do they happen organically? What can we as individuals do to connect with the people around us and the environment in which we live and work?
5 ideas for building community at UBC
1) Schedule a social meeting. Far too often we meet with colleagues, discuss the issues at hand then hurriedly part ways without leaving ourselves time to connect on a social or personal level. Try adding 10 minutes to the end of your next meeting to chat with your colleagues about their most recent vacation, their family or their latest work project.
2) Join in. Join a class, leisure activity or committee that interests you. This will provide a new group of people with whom to interact and you are sure to already have interests in common.
3) Use children or pets as a way to connect. I know a number of new parents who have created wonderful and supportive communities as a result of chatting with other parents at the park, daycare or classes. You can try the same thing at the dog park or the beach with your pets.
4) Get friendly with your surroundings. Research shows that exposure and familiarity with our surroundings leads to increased feelings of safety and social connection. Knowing the ins and outs of the campus a bit more can help us feel connected to our physical space. (Zajonc, 2001)
5) Reach out when in need. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable or asking for assistance can be daunting, yet we all know how great it feels to help others. Next time you need support, express that to someone else and it might bring you closer to those around you.
Check out UBC’s Community Engagement Initiative for more ideas.
This month, I invite you to build your own community on campus and to choose the path that suits you the best; whether through involvement, learning, wellbeing, leisure, or a smorgasbord of other options.
We work together at UBC and some of us also live within these gates, and we will be better served and able to better serve others if we start to reimagine ourselves as being part of a supportive and caring set of communities.
Zajonc, R.B. (2001). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 224–228.