Connected?

How is it that we have access to more information than ever before and yet, as a society, our health is, to say the least, struggling?

And that we are more ‘connected’ than any generation in history, and social isolation is a real issue in our time?

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Photo via VisualHunt

When it is laid out like that, its hard to ignore, but it’s true.  We think we are so ‘in the know’ but we often aren’t!!

The power of community is a phenomenon that our ancestors had right – they knew being part of an extended family was good for health, (for a variety of reasons) and that it most definitely takes a village to raise a child. But, here we are and it seems, we have mostly gotten ‘too cool’ for the village!  Why?  There are lots of reasons, of which, I’m sure you can think of without me!

Look, I’m not saying you should invite every family member to be part of your household/village, that would be extreme, and for some, too much to take!  Though wouldn’t it be awesome to chill out with the people who feed your soul more often?? Or just to know you belong to something bigger than yourself?

This belonging is one of the keys to resilience as defined by world-renowned Dr Michael Ungar of The Resilience Research Centre, based in Canada.  I had the honour of hearing this man speak about resilient youth last year in Brisbane – and I can tell you, one day wasn’t enough!!  He has dedicated an unbelievable amount of time to researching resilience and how it affects both individuals and communities.  You can see his work at http://resilienceresearch.org

Sorry, I’m back on topic now – communities can push us to new places of ability and belief and also keep us honest!  I’m reminded of this when sometimes I force myself to go for a run in the morning, I might not go far, but at least I go, and have stuck to my word I had previously given my inspiring friend!

My morning battle backs up what we know already.  That is – results are multiplied (in many areas of life) when you surround yourself with ‘your’ like-minded people.

A good example is weight loss and weight loss maintenance – not only does research show it is more successful in the early stages with a buddy.  But another tip to long term success is creating an environment where the new found healthy lifestyle is the ‘norm’ rather than feeling like you are the odd one out.

Reading through what I’ve written so far, I kind of sound like I’m saying just have any people around!!  I’m not, it is still crucial to choose the people you spend time with wisely, but find the like-minded people who force you up a level!!

This notion has been termed strategic alliance – its not about what you want in return, its about how we can team up to get better outcomes in the big picture of life.

For health, it means more health-focused lifestyles, not only for us, but also those around us!

For the parents who are reading, it means carefully constructing your village.  Are you part of a village?  How do you think it would be useful if you were?  Some parents can be vicious – for reasons I have never figured out.  I know you will understand when I say – parenting shouldn’t be a competition, it should be about building each other up while we figure out what we are doing – and all the while keeping your children’s self-esteem intact!

The truth is, in this modern world, this concept of community (and the power it holds) needs much work!

We need to use our online connectedness as a tool to create offline communities and villages and importantly, find ‘our’ people. 

I’ll leave you with this – a challenge to consider – What communities you are part of?  How do you contribute to them? Are you proud of your contributions?  What else would you like to get out of these communities?  How connected are you?

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Featured Image:  Photo via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/”>VisualHunt</a&gt;

 

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‘How to’

Do you know about Parkrun?  It is a free, weekly, 5km timed run that happens around the world. A worldwide community who don’t know each other but we have one common interest – running.  It has been my observation that a wonderful sense of connection has emerged through this parkrunning phenomenon. We know that having a sense of connectedness can improve one’s mental health.  So, in a nutshell parkrun has the capacity to improve mental health??  Could it really be that easy??  Follow the ‘how to’ guide below, and let me know!!

Thanks to a beautiful friend, who introduced me to parkrun, I’ve been parkrunning for awhile now.  I love it, and I wanted to share the love!!  I’m super proud to say that I will have clocked up my 50 parkruns by the end of April.  There are some people at my home run who have done more than 100!!  And I did also see a 250 run shirt on the merchandise store – now that is dedicated, isn’t it?!

Parkrun is something that has become a ritual for me now. Each week, something else occurs to me as to why I like it so much. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Register at http://www.parkrun.com  This involves printing out your barcodes – they give you 6, so no excuses when you lose one, ok!?  I now note you can also get a wristband with your barcode on it, that’s a bit fancy, isn’t it?
  2. So then on Friday night, lay out the clothes you plan to wear, you want to make it easy for yourself!! This includes everything you will need, you don’t want have to search for belongings in the morning.
  3. Set your alarm, even set it to occur weekly as a back up. Sleep well, the alarm will wake you! That’s it’s job!
  4. Bound out of bed, dress in your pre-prepared clothes and remember to take your barcode. It doesn’t matter if you are sleepy eyed, high five yourself for getting up, that’s  the hardest but most important decision you will make for the weekend. Apply sunscreen but only under your eyes, nobody wants sunscreen eyes while running!
  5. Drive there, give yourself plenty of time, you want to arrive with time to spare, like probably 0645. Last week, in my sleepiness I nearly reversed my husband’s car into a unassuming rail.
  6. Proceed to start line, if its your first time, listen the brief, the run directors want you to have fun and come back to enjoy all that is parkrun.
  7. Have a look around, you never know who to might know there.  The running community doesn’t discriminate. People come from all walks of life and for all different reasons. See that’s the cool thing about parkrun, its absolutely not a race, the only competition there is, is against yourself, and being better than YOU were yesterday.
  8. Run!  It doesn’t matter how fast you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch! Sometimes I run with a watch to see my time and keep me honest, other times I just run, for the fresh air and because it’s my time not to think about anything else (any mum’s reading this will especially know how important this is!)
  9. Notice the people around you, if they are doing it tough, would it hurt to give them a boost? It’s called kindness, sprinkle that everywhere!  Today at another time or on another day, your kindness will be returned.  I tell you, I LOVE that kindness when I’m doing tough at about the 3-4km mark!  That kindness can, and should be applied to yourself!!
  10. Cross the finish line and collect your token.  Now for the part that seems to be an issue everywhere.  Get both your barcode and token scanned.  The barcode is yours to keep and the token belongs to parkrun.  DO NOT TAKE THE TOKEN HOME!!  And that’s it, easy right?!  All Done!
  11. Give yourself some more well deserved praise its, its 8 am and you couldn’t have started the weekend in a much better way!
  12. After you have been a few times a couple of things will then happen.  You start to notice people and people notice your efforts as well.  The other thing that then needs to happen is that you need to volunteer.  Parkrun relies solely on volunteers – speak to your Run Director or other organisers to put your hand up – its an easy job which is very rewarding!
Did you note only one of the steps involves running?!  The park run community is quite a unique and supportive group, why not try it out for yourself?
On behalf of parkrunners everywhere, I would like to say a sincere THANK YOU to all of the Run Directors and the volunteers – not only do you give up your time every week, you also directly contribute to improving the health of hundreds of thousands of people.