What comes to mind when you think about health and wellness? I’m sure exercise and eating healthy are the first things. Regular check-ups, seeing all the appropriate doctors, and stress management would also make the top of the list. Something that may not come to mind but should: community. What comes to mind when you think of community?
Recently the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory that discussed the “Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” According to the advisory on the epidemic, loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being, both on an individual and societal level. At an individual level research suggests it leads to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. This could lead to diminished productivity and engagement on a societal level.
The good news? Being part of a community is associated with positive health outcomes. Living in the Cape Fear region there are a variety of opportunities to build social interactions. New Hanover Public Libraries offer programs like book discussion groups, card game time, and even speed friending. The senior resource center is a great way for older adults to connect through activities and resources. Other places that many people find connection are through their faith communities, local clubs, organizations, and volunteering.
Volunteering is a great way to increase social connections, because you are consistently engaging with others who have a similar passion and are working toward a common goal. In our region there are a multitude of opportunities to volunteer in the areas of food, environment, and education to name a few.
If you are passionate about local food, health, and nutrition, you can join me in my efforts to reach residents of New Hanover County with increased food access and literacy, including cooking and nutrition skills. The Extension Master Food Volunteer program is modeled after the Extension Master Gardener program and is designed to engage residents in food and nutrition programming in our community. If this is a program you are interested in, please visit this link: https://go.ncsu.edu/nhcemfv.
Maybe this article is leaving you feeling grateful for your community. Maybe it’s encouraging you to branch out and seek activities that allow you to connect with others through community centers. Regardless, I hope it inspires you to find ways to connect with and serve the community through volunteering in an area you're passionate about.
Morgan King is the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension - New Hanover County Center. The office is located at the arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive in Wilmington. The gardens are free and open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Reach her at email@example.com or 910-798-7660.