Find Your Tribe: How To Create Real, Non-digital Connection

Most of us grew up in some iteration of a community. Within it, there was usually an assortment of friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives, who for years remained relatively stable presences in our lives.

However, when we head out on our own far from home, that sense of community often falls away. Disconnection can follow with our insular, digitally-saturated lifestyle, long work hours, long commutes and little down time, making modern life  anything but conducive to creating community. And all that adds up to profound loneliness, the kind that makes physical, emotional and mental health suffer, in potentially disastrous ways.

If your goal is to live a healthy and happy life, I urge you to make connection and community an essential part of your wellness equation. Not sure how to go about it? Here are some ideas to help you master the somewhat forgotten art of connection – and reap its life-sustaining benefits:

What’s in it for me?
Creating community or ‘finding your tribe,’ offers a number of mood-elevating, well-being benefits that include, inspiration and motivation; a sense of purpose and meaning; the opportunity to improve your life and positively impact others; an expanded social circle; and the potential for personal and professional growth, to name a few. Those who connect by choosing the volunteering route, enjoy less loneliness and depression, better blood pressure numbers and enhanced longevity, according to Harvard Medical School.

Where’s my tribe?
While there still are plenty of traditional communities out there, complete with cul-de-sacs, PTAs, houses of worship and the white picket fence, for those in more urban or non-conventional settings, finding community may take a bit more effort. The good news is that people are recognizing their fundamental need to connect in person, in real-time, and coming up with new ways to do it. Be it an arts or music festival where families camp out for several days at a time; a team racing over rigorous terrain or marching for a worthy cause; or like-minded people exchanging skills and ideas and teaching workshops — finding a tribe is more possible than ever, thanks to the major search engines. You’ll find people who share your dreams, can help share your challenges, and even be there to pick you up at 2:00 a.m. when your car breaks down.

Look for community that’s real, deep and non-digital.
Finding a tribe isn’t quite the same as going on a group vacation or night out with your friends. It goes deeper and involves coming together for shared experiences that may require some effort and commitment, plus a shared goal or mission. It involves a level of interdependence, in which individuals rely on each other to meet basic needs, plus, consistency – going beyond fleeting moments, and engaging with the same folks multiple times. A tribe typically also demands a level of challenge. Real bonds often require vulnerability, perhaps a bit of discomfort, and a genuine need for giving and receiving.

Find your tribe.
How to find or make a tribe? Are a few ways to go about it:

Shake it up.
Make the effort to move outside your usual stomping grounds and go to where tribes are forming. MeetUp.com is a great place to start. Try things you might not normally do, like dancing at dawn with the Daybreaker tribe, joining a book club or knitting group; volunteering to read to the elderly or tutor kids. Just get started and find something that that speaks to your interests or your soul.

Throw caution to the wind (within reason).
Instead of getting stuck in an endless, O.C.D.-like cycle of ‘what if’s’, commit to driving to that festival or fair even though it’s far away and you’re not sure about those porta-potties, and the food might be disappointing, and the weather might be bad and, blah, blah, blah. Take a chance, go full steam ahead, and if there are bumps in the road, think of them as opportunities to think on your feet, solve problems on the fly, have a bit of an adventure and meet some interesting people along the way.

Double down – the more the merrier.
The thing about community is that you don’t need to stop at just one. For some people, more is even better – it all comes down to understanding how much of yourself you’re willing to give. For example, join a group at a wellness or educational retreat, or perhaps an herbal conference where you learn about healing plants. Round-up a group for hikes, cycling or wilderness trips. Try linking up with other parents to trade off and meet childcare needs. Engage in a group movement practice, be it a festive Zumba class or a relaxing tai chi class. Get more involved with a meditation group, or church, temple, or mosque, or another spiritual group that appeals. Volunteer for community projects that involve commitment and creating something together. If you find yourself over-doing it with one of your tribes, take the occasional pause, but don’t quit. Come back and do it all again at a level that works for you.

Think of the possibilities!
When it comes to finding your tribe, the world is your oyster. Here are a few other ideas to inspire your hunt:

PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE

For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.