The last time I had my annual physical, my doctor asked me what I was doing to keep my mind busy. “I write a blog,” I told him. “That’s good,” he replied. “Do you do any kind of puzzles?” he asked. When I told him I liked to do crossword puzzles, he said that was also good. But when he asked me what kind of interactions I had socially, I wasn’t as quick to respond. I had to fish around for the things I do that involve interaction with other people. For seven months of the year, I volunteer on Monday mornings at church. Once a month I attend the Hampton Roads Writers board meeting. Every few weeks we see my brother and his family. We’ve gone out to eat with friends or invited people to dinner only several times in the four years we’ve lived here. My doctor nodded, and said those things were fine, but I needed to make sure I found as many opportunities as possible to be with other people. He said, “We see a greater incidence of dementia in retired people who stay at home and have little social interaction.”
If I had stayed in San Antonio, I would have plenty of opportunities to get out with others for lunch or shopping or going to the museums. Many of my long-time friends have retired also. But when you move at sixty to a place you’ve never been before, it is hard to establish those kinds of relationships again, though I have started making some wonderful friendships with several blogging friends in the area. And most times, I don’t even mind being alone. I am a person who is seldom bored. I treasure my quiet times.
Yesterday, during my yoga class, I thought about what the doctor had said about the need for social interaction. Most of the time, when we talk about a community of believers, we talk about a congregation of people meeting to worship together. That certainly qualifies as a community of believers, even if their individual beliefs aren’t quite the same. They all acknowledge the singular belief in a Higher Power. But that’s just one example of a community of believers.
In my yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the same four of us take our places along the back, against a wall of mirrors. We have taken that spot for several years. It’s like our pew in church—we can’t concentrate if we have to be anywhere else. So we’ve gotten in the habit of putting a mat down to save a spot for another one of the four. Three times in a row now, C. hasn’t shown up. It’s not like her. She’s one of the faithful, always there. We’re getting concerned, and our instructor is going to give me C.’s email so I can check up on her. It struck me today that our yoga class has become a community of believers. We believe in the power of yoga to make us feel better, physically and emotionally, but even more, we share those beliefs within the body of those who regularly attend the class. We care about each other. That is the power of being involved in social interaction. You know that you are thought of and cared about. Your presence is welcomed and your absence is noticed and makes you missed.
Whether it is a yoga class, a Bible study, a scrapbooking group, a book club, volunteer work, or whatever kind of activity you choose to be involved in, you are in a community of believers. And I can see why it is so important for mental functioning to be a part of a community like that. We need each other.