What do our people need?  A Sense of Community and Belonging

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communityA few days ago I was privileged to attend a conference that focused on our veterans, the issues they faced after discharge from service, their expectations, their feelings of social isolation, and how, together, we could provide resources and opportunities to improve their quality of life.

I came to a conclusion after just the first speaker at the event:  The discussion presented described not only to the experience faced by our veterans, but could be applied to every member of our society, no matter what state or city they live.

As you read on, I am confident that you will agree that the Enjoy Life Community® program developed by the Time to Play Foundation provides a valid solution to address many of the issues being faced today, not only by our veterans, but by a majority of our youth and our people.

Perhaps it is time for the people within our communities to stop just “existing” and “surviving” and to start “living”.

The first speaker at the event was a Vietnam Veteran and a chaplain.  For the purposes of this article, we will call him Mr. O.

He presented how a soldier is trained and embraced into duty and described what becomes missing in their lives upon return to civilian life after discharge.

#1:  A sense of purpose:  Mr. O explained that, when a soldier is in active service, they have a “job”.  He explained how the soldier is important in that job, how the members of service “liked” them in that job, and how the armed forces wanted the soldier to succeed in that job.

#2:  A sense of community / belonging:  Mr. O discussed the soldier’s sense of community and belonging while on active duty and how the soldier knew who they were and where they stood with the others in their command (community).

#3:  A sense of Intimacy:  Mr. O described the sense of intimacy felt by the soldier in their command.  He explained how soldiers not only knew the members of their command (community), but how they stood by each other and supported each other.

Mr. O noted that, after the soldier left active service, they no longer felt this sense of community, of belonging, of purpose, or of importance; that, upon discharge from service, they no longer felt the sense of intimacy or sense of value.

Mr. O noted that there is no system to integrate the soldier back into their home community, and that, without their military unit’s support, they cannot “get home”.

Mr. O said that this is when the dilemma of “where do you belong when you no longer belong” sets in, which is when, he noted, that many soldiers turn to drugs or alcohol to find a sense of comfort.  He described his experience talking to incarcerated veterans who feel more comfortable in jail because they are around people who understand them.

Mr. O said that the feeling experienced by veterans becomes most disturbing when no one understands them, when no one understands who they are, and when they no longer have a voice.  He described how these become the feelings that breed the feelings of hopelessness.  He described how the soldier feels lost without the sense of values given to them and lost because what they believe is not what others believe.

It is, at that time, when the soldier feels very lonely and isolated.

After hearing Mr. O speak, it becomes evident how every person would benefit from being embraced by the community in which they live in the manner the armed forces embraces their soldiers.

Further, Mr. O noted that, years ago in our civilian communities, there were clubs and organizations and a sense of belonging in a community; that people socialized together.  Now, he noted, people are increasingly socially isolated and not embracing of others.

As I imply that there are similarities in the feelings experienced by people who are not veterans, I am in no way minimizing the experience of those who have served.  Thankfully, the general population has not seen the circumstances of war that many of our returning veterans have experienced, and I do acknowledge that our veterans may need support services and programs to face the resulting trauma.

But, think about it. . .

What community member is really integrated into our communities throughout their lives starting with our youth? What programs are available that help the general population feel “at home” or help them develop a sense of belonging or a sense of support?  A sense of not being alone even if facing a negative life situation?

How many articles or events do we need to read about where those who feel “different”, not supported, socially isolated or bullied adopt negative coping techniques including the utilization of drugs or alcohol or cause harm to themselves or others in their communities through violent acts?

I believe the need for self worth and the effects of social isolation are the same for every one of us.

I believe that, no matter where we live, WE ALL NEED a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of importance, a sense of intimacy and a sense of being of value.

We all need a sense of community.  We all need to belong.

The Enjoy Life Community® model presents a solution to all who live in any community.  It will not only help our veterans re-integrate and feel welcome and at home, but the intention of an Enjoy Life Community® is to:  Bring together all organizations and individuals in a community, encourage proactive community collaboration, utilize the community organizations to trickle information throughout a community, showcase the good work of community organizations to encourage participation by community members, identify areas where community participation is available to increase community involvement with the intention to decrease social isolation, and to utilize the strength and experience of community members in a community.

The Enjoy Life Community® model is a low cost social intervention that is a visible, non-threatening approach to create quality of life for those in a community.

The Enjoy Life Community® model provides a positive reminder and reinforcement to enjoy life by offering visible cues, establishing pride in a community, and encourages a focus on the positive and the possibilities.


It is also important for me to mention here the fact many people do not proactively seek assistance when they are experiencing a negative life situation.  The Enjoy Life Community®, due to its visibility of resources in the community, also offers an opportunity for a more proactive approach to solve this issue.  Additionally, I believe the current system that provides individual counseling may perpetuate (continue) the individual’s experience and current belief system.  Even with outreach or counseling or support programs, the individual may remain isolated and continue to feel “unwelcomed” or segregated from their communities.  That would potentially change in an Enjoy Life Community®.

The Enjoy Life Community® utilizes the resources and people in a community to make it stronger to enhance the quality of life for all.

The Enjoy Life Community® model can be applied to any community, including a school community, college campus or corporate environment to create the feeling that people are important and belong.

If you are interested in learning more about this easy to implement solution, please contact us at 631-331-2675 or email:

Just imagine the possibilities if people in their communities felt supported, not alone, and lived in a place where they were able to share or develop their talents.

Just imagine…

After all, I believe every moment of every day should feel like “play”.  It is time to enjoy life. It is Time to Play.

Love, Doreen


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Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC:  Doreen holds a Bachelor of Science in Management, a Masters in Business and Policy Studies, is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, a Certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Coach, Certified Professional Coach, Certified Life Coach, and the author of the book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life.

Doreen is the founder of the Time to Play Foundation, a 501c3 not for profit organization with the mission and purpose to enrich the lives of others through programs, public awareness outreach activities, events and learning opportunities that further the concept of enjoying life.  The Foundation’s website,, has resources, events and articles for a person to learn what they need to know for a better life.

Photo credit:

Brain Benefits of Volunteer Vacations and Citizen Science: Boomer Options

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Being Purposeful and traveling are two of the most robust paths to keeping your brain firing and engaged.  So think about this…. The world of travel is about to face an incredible opportunity — millions of Baby Boomers looking to fill their lives with purposeful, constructive, educational experiences that make them feel alive.

Train and Cruise through Alaska

I am one of that army of educated people looking to serve my purpose, enjoy life, and engage more fully in the world but I have a head start…. Unlike my peers though, I found what excites me more than just about anything — being a Citizen Scientist on a volunteer vacation. I caught the bug on trip to Belize in November where my husband and I participated in a reef conservation project with ReefCI .   We found this oh so life changing experience through an incredibly well run organization out of the UK POD Volunteer.

Learning on the island

Learning about lobsters before we go hunt them with Jason, marine biologist extraordinaire! Photo was taken by Polly, the founder of ReefCI!

Both my husband and I work…a lot… and lead really  busy lives so when we found a way to really contribute to the scientific body of knowledge while traveling AND that travel fit into the limited spaces of time we could take away from work, we were thrilled.  Combine that with something we love — scuba diving — and we had a recipe for something life changing.  And that it did…. We are currently planning our next adventure.  It might be an archeological dig or could be a turtle preservation project or we may be working to restore a habitat somewhere cool but it will be something purposeful and engage our minds on a whole new level — up the challenge and keep our brains firing and re-wiring!

Airport Traveling

I plan to write each week about volunteer vacation opportunities and how to use those to both maximize your brain health and amplify the quality of life. Find something you love — something you are passionate about — and see if you can find a trip.   Better yet, tell me what you love and are passionate about and let’s explore together.  

This piece was originally published on

What's Your Squeaky Toy?

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By Tami Racaniello CPFT-HFI

My formerly extremely active dog, has been not her usual self. During an exam the vet “felt something”. Further testing showed that my Jack Russell/Rat Terrier mix, Jacki, had a tumor the size of a lemon. Due to the location, the 50/50 odds given for her survival during surgery, and the fact that she had to be perfectly still for a week while she recovered, (Helloooo, we are talking Jack Russell mix here!), we took our chances and decided to not take the surgical option. She has been fine, but less active. Her activity level became as ambitious as my Lab/Rottie mix, Allie, who likes to lie down… a lot. 

Walking through a discount store, I saw a whole display of squeaky toys. Jacki and Allie both love them, except Jacki likes the noise of the squeak as she crunches the toy, and Allie’s objective is to see how fast she can pull out the stuffing. I had not gotten squeaky toys for either of them in some time, so I found a cute toy with squeakers on both ends for Jacki, and one with no stuffing for Allie.

I brought the toys home, and squeaked them. Both dogs came running in, all excited. The really cool thing is that when Jacki started playing with it, it was like there was nothing wrong with her. She was her energetic self, throwing the toy up in the air, pouncing on it, and happily grabbing it in her mouth to hear the squeak. After Jacki happily pulled the stuffing out (whoa…dogs reversing roles), she went on to playing with her tennis ball, and repeatedly bringing it to me to throw.

Since then Jacki has been much happier, and more active. I’m not sure why. The only thing I can think of, is that she may have been feeling a little depressed, and the squeaky toy helped Jacki find her “happy”.

So what’s your squeaky toy? What brings you so much joy that no matter how you are feeling, you are able to find happiness and purpose?

Hugs, health and happiness to you!


PS: In case you were wondering, Allie set her personal best in squeaker pulling – 1 minute 30 seconds. Doggie Olympics we are ready!