Lessen that loneliness with cohousing
Our lifestyles create and maintain loneliness
Many people (and you may even be one of them), dream of leaving modern life in search of a more connected human existence. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives and research shows that people who are more socially connected to family, friends or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer. They also have fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected. We are a social species after all.
According to recent psychological research, modern life is making us lonelier and a review of international studies indicates that loneliness increases mortality risk by 26%. Simply put – loneliness kills.
People nowadays have fewer close friends and live further from family. Social media networks might be growing, but real life connections are shrinking. You may even spend professional and personal time around other people, but just how connected to them do you really feel?
Relationship Australia notes that Australians will experience loneliness at some point in their lives. In 2018 Psychology Week explored the Power of Human Connection. The APS collaborated with Swinburne University on the study of loneliness in Australia, to highlight the wellbeing of Australians and their experience of social isolation. This report revealed that:
- 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely
- Many Australians, especially the younger generation reported anxiety about socialising
- 30% didn’t feel part of a group of friends
- Lonely Australians have worse physical and mental health, and are more likely to be depressed
Cohousing alleviates loneliness
On a brighter note, there ARE ways to alleviate loneliness. And one of them in particular is Cohousing.
The term Cohousing originated in Denmark in the 60’s and it helped to close the gap between people and where they live – encouraging them to have more interaction, friendships, and support, which in turn leads to happiness and wellbeing. “The human species is tribal in nature, but through generations of culture change, we’ve lost that tribal instinct,” says Lois Arkin, founder of an Ecovillage Cohousing community in Los Angeles. “Cohousing communities restore the human connections that we all crave.” Remember, we are a social bunch of little vegemites!
So how exactly does Cohousing work?
Cohousing is defined as a type of accommodation (usually purpose built) with shared living spaces. Traditionally it is an intentional community, whereby each household has a self-contained private home as well as collaborative spaces and facilities. These typically include a common house with a large kitchen, dining room, laundry, gym and recreational areas. Outdoor space includes walkways, gardens, playgrounds, workshops and parking.
Residents maintain and manage their Cohousing and join together over a common set of values. They also share activities and regular meals together and family groups are very interdependent.
The aim of Cohousing, which is sometimes called intentional communities includes:
- Fostering connection among neighbours through shared meals and activities
- Increasing sustainability
- Helping others with tasks such as childcare
- Assisting aging members
Cohousing fosters connection
The core of Cohousing is living in relationship. Cohousing creates communities and values which help people deal with life and its challenges. People spend time connected with each other, and a culture of sharing and caring is cultivated. Being able to share feelings and emotions with others, whether positive or negative has been found to help people feel better about themselves. And this in turn can have a positive impact on their physical health.
Meaningful relationships help us feel connected and much less lonely. “Intentional communities are about creating attachment, the feeling that someone has your back” says Harvard University Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger.
According to a Public Health Review article, the evidence suggests being a part of a supportive community improves physical, emotional and mental health and that informal social contact provided by Cohousing, reduces the risk of social isolation and greatly improves wellbeing.
If you are interested in finding out more about Cohousing in Australia, the Collaborative Housing website has a lot of helpful information from ‘gathering a community’ to ‘design and financing’.
Onwards and upwards to a healthier, happier and less lonely way of living for us all.