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The Science behind community and what it means to belong.

The Science behind community and what it means to belong.

. 4 min read

This blog post is a part of our “Ride the Heatwave” series focusing on building community through In-Person and virtual hybrid learning during this summer of change.

We all strive for a sense of connection.  Being a part of a community can make us feel as if we belong to something greater than just ourselves.

So, what does “belonging” really mean? The exact definition is “an affinity for a place or situation.”

It’s a feeling. A sense that we inherently have as human beings when we find our people, a place, and our community.

At Moxie we are always looking for ways to create a wider community, while instilling a sense of belonging, acceptance, and love for ourselves and one another.

Studies have shown that feelings of isolation are directly linked to depression and can be twice as dangerous as obesity. Moxie is more than just a virtual fitness platform, it’s a place where everyone is welcome to show up as themselves without fear of judgement.

So, what happens to our brains when we’re filled with this sense of community? We are able to govern our hormonal response levels to stress much more effectively. Fewer hormonal spikes in the brain mean less feelings of panic, and more feelings of happiness and calm.

But just as the hormonal response to community shows up in our brain functions, the psychology behind loneliness can manifest itself in our body.

This is why community is just as crucial to our physical health as exercising. Other measurable results that researchers have found in feelings of belonging include:

  • Lower rates of anxiety and loneliness
  • Higher self-esteem, empathy, and trust for others
  • Decreased blood pressure, cortisol, and inflammation
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Improved sleep

Adding to these major benefits is the fact that feeling a sense of belonging, especially during a time of distress, can make us feel more nurtured, and supported.

Moxie was born during a time where the entire world was dealing with a global pandemic that sent the majority of us into our homes, away from loved ones for a long period of time.

We understand the importance of creating an environment that is accepting and founded on the understanding that we all wish to belong. Learn more about the importance of creating a culture of belonging here.

You can create this type of environment with both virtual and In-Person classes. We’ve got a few helpful tips to ensure your students feel comfortable, safe, and seen.

  1. Establish the basics.

During both In-Person and virtual classes, make a point to introduce yourself to students before class. Approach new students individually and catch up with recurring ones as well. For virtual, reach out through messaging after class to check in.

Address the group as a whole to establish the basic ground rules of respecting themselves, you, and one another. Confirm students have everything they need before class starts.

Pro Tip: In-Person classes can be a great way to establish this 1:1 bond with new and current students. Take the opportunity before or after class to ask questions both fitness related and otherwise. Asking someone how they are doing is a great place to start!

2.   Find shared connections.

Whether In-Person or virtual, find out the needs of your students. People have joined your class for a reason, and shared interests and needs can bring people together and make them feel more comfortable and connected. For virtual classes, you can create a group message and ask students some of the following questions:

  • What are you looking for from this class?
  • What brought you to Moxie?
  • Are you willing to share one of your goals for the year?

As your students answer these questions they may find others who share the same goals or reasoning. This will help students connect with one another virtually, if they are not meeting In-Person to do so.

For In-Person classes you can send out similar messaging and share the broader range of goals with the entire class. This way, students will feel connected as a team by working to achieve shared goals.

3.   Introduce themes.

Studies have shown that uniforms, colors, or shared symbols create a sense of belonging within communities. Try creating a theme for one of your virtual or In-Person classes and encourage students to dress up. For example “Diva Disco Dumbbells,” could be a fun way to engage students and ask them to sport on theme attire.

Pro Tip: Letting students know the theme ahead of time allows for them to share ideas on costumes or decorations—creating more connection and communication among students both virtual and In-Person!

4.   Inclusive language.

Use language that is inclusive before, during, and after class. Properly address clients by their name and correct pronouns. (Learn more about inclusive language here).

Provide cues and adjustments when needed and necessary. Remember, everyone in class is sharing in the community, but each individual is still unique with their own needs.

It’s important to remember as an instructor you have a responsibility to your clients to make sure they are comfortable throughout the duration of class.

The In-Person and virtual classes you host become the vehicle to something much greater—communities where people feel safe, seen, and supported.

For more information on the importance of finding and building a community, see here.