Why join in with your local community initiatives like Tufnell Park transition town? It might be that you are becoming disenchanted with the way the world is going , such as the speed of things, the long working hours, the expectation that one has to endlessly consume more and more. Whether young middle aged or old, we can too easily end up living lives that are expected of us rather than of our own choosing, and to succumb to the pressures to fit into a shiny and fast contemporary zeitgeist. Linking withoura local community. Initiative can help.
Indeed we need not buy the dominant conservative ideas – that living in a competitive individualistic market way is natural, that more is always better or that humans are ‘naturally’ selfish – we can become so used to such ideas that we believe that there is no alternative .. but there is!
We might remember that we have evolved as a species to live in close proximity with members of a community with whom we work, live, love and play, and who we understand, care about, help and support. Rather than being naturally selfish (as conservative and free-market theorists would have us believe) babies as young as 15 month old have been shown in experiments to want to ‘naturally’ help others, and they want to fit in, learn social rules, understand and care about other people’s thoughts and feelings and become part of their local group and culture.
Feeling close to others makes us feel good. We release oxytocin, the love hormone, when we help each other, and when we are with people we like and love, and oxytocin makes us more trusting and more interested in other people’s thoughts and feelings. Reward circuits in our braisn light up when we are caring and generous to others just as when we get something for ourselves. We are wired to be helpful, it feels good.
Furthermore in case you don’t have enough incentive, such oxytocin release and being part of joint activities, also boosts our immune systems and improves our health. Being in social groups even has been proven to increase the likelihood of recovery from serious illnesses such as heart attacks or strokes. Having friends and helping other people and being committed to a cause are all good for us, but more importantly, they are good for the community, and ultimately, if the cause is transition town, it is good for the planet.
On the other hand living a monadic individualistic lifestyle where we see others as competitors and rivals, increases stress levels. The more stress hormones we release, like cortisol, the more our immune system is adversely affected, and generally the worse we feel, including feeling more anxious and less trusting. Our heart rates and blood pressure increase and we are over-alert. Stress hormones even affect our memories, corroding brain cells in our hippocampus. However community life can have the opposite effect. It can calm and soothe us, make us trusting rather than suspicious, help us believe that we can live for others, for good causes, and not only for ourselves and our families. When we look at it like this, there is no alternative to working together to create a genuine alternative!