Helen Keller once said, "Alone we do so little; together we can do so much."
Being connected to good friends and living in a community setting has the power to influence you more than you may think. Loneliness doesn't just make you feel sad, it also correlates with higher blood pressure and cholesterol, and increased production of cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can really throw out system out of whack if we experience too much of it over an extended period of time. Social isolation can increase mental health issues and make recovery more difficult.
Over the past decade of living in Israel, I've met many new olim who struggle with feelings of loneliness and lack of connection. They ache to find a community as they work to rebuild their lives in an often stressful country. Most are living here without close family members and are struggling with the numerous pressures of daily life. It isn't always easy to make new friends and find the perfect kehilla, but it is an essential mission to actively pursue. Community involvement and close friends make life easier and more healthful by providing a basic essential to our existence. We can all help each other in creating a more cohesive, caring, and inclusive community.
Here are a few ideas for getting involved:
-Join a Shabbat meal through Shabbat.com
-Volunteer with one of the many wonderful organizations or hospitals in Jerusalem- make it a weekly thing to benefit the most! Check out ruachtova,org.il for ideas.
-Don't be shy:) Initiate friendship by asking your co-worker or friend you only see at the gym/ulpan/shul, if they want to meet for a coffee.
-Host your own Shabbat meals and invite. I found this the best way to make new friends when we moved here.
-Join a running group or check out Meet-up Israel to meet people with similar interests.
-Make a collaborative effort. Have an acquaintance you want to get to know? Ask her to join with you to work on a chessed project- shidduch ideas, local N'shei project...good connections come from collaborating.
If you already have a thriving social circle, reaching out can still benefit you. How can you help others to get more involved?
Ways to Enhance Community Connections:
-Go out of your way to say hello to a new person in the park/local makolet/gan pick-up. A little conversation can go a long ways.
-Start a community WhatsApp group that provides new people with a forum to introduce themselves and ask questions. People can give contact details for new members to the group admin by doing the first suggestion:)
-Don't be cliquey. Even in middle-age, there is still often a proliferation of a closed social circle. Open the circle, invite some more people in. The more, the merrier!
-Host a monthly Rosh Chodesh coffee get-together. Sometimes people just need a reason to get together and chat and take a break from their busy schedules.
-And of course, Shabbos and yom tov meals, (busy lives permitting,) are a great time to invite new faces into our homes.
A little connection goes a long way. Connected to each other, connected to Hashem, we'll all be happier, and that the healthiest:)