Self-care rituals—once akin to an indulgent night in—are evolving. Especially after a year of isolation, there is a growing awareness that focusing on individual wellbeing is only half the picture. According to Thomas Hübl, founder of The Pocket Project, trauma perpetuates a feeling of separation and isolation. Medical experts are now emphasizing the importance of group care formats and fostering a sense of community in order to heal from the emotional effects of the pandemic. They also warn that the collective trauma of isolation will affect communities’ identities in the near future, making collective care essential to both communal and individual healing. In an interview with The Harvard Gazette, Hübl explained that “trauma is seen as a personal issue, and now we are talking about the collective or systemic dimensions.”

In response, new community care formats are cropping up. Community-focused healing and collective care foster a sense of engagement and unity that are necessary to combatting otherwise unaddressed trauma and distress, which doctors note are already starting to manifest in physical ailments.

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Breathing Pavilion by Eken Ijeoma, co-produced by Van Alen Institute and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Photography by Kris Graves.

To combat loneliness and mental languish, communities are creating safe spaces to promote collective wellbeing. One public art installation in downtown Brooklyn guided onlookers in a collective breathing exercise through light fixtures. From March until May 11, 2021, onlookers could stand in the center of the Breathing Pavilion, by artist Ekene Ijeoma, where they might find a moment of peace and guided meditation alongside the glowing columns. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, who along with the Van Alen Institute brought the art to Brooklyn, said that the installation “suggests a paradigm shift towards communion and meditative stillness.” Ijeoma stated that “this pavilion is here to invite the public to breathe into the change within each of us, in sync with one another.”

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The GREEN designed by Mimi Lien, rendering by Timothy Leung.

Recognizing the need for escape and entertainment, Lincoln Center will install a synthetic green in their plaza this summer, providing a space “reenvisioned to be a more inclusive and inviting environment” for isolated New Yorkers to “re-energize, and find inspiration and uplift.” The theatre will transform its plaza into a unique stage for performances while remaining accessible: it’s “designed so that people with different levels of mobility can access the space.” Mimi Lien, the mastermind behind The GREEN, hopes the installation will welcome all as a “place to gather” from May 10 through September.

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The See Through Pavilion by Morag Myerscough. Photography by Gareth Gardner

The See Through Pavilion, located in Grosvenor Square in London, is a direct response to the isolation of lockdown, and was created to bring moments of “unexpected joy” to the community. On display from March through June 2021, visitors can walk through the open space to admire the colorful graphics and positive phrases. Artist Morag Myerscough says the concept was a collaborative effort “made to be uplifting and to show that we are feeling the same and we are connected even though we were being kept apart.”

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The See Through Pavilion by Morag Myerscough. Photography by Gareth Gardner

The practice of self-care is evolving into a collective format. Spaces and experiences that offer the ability to “practice [mental health] in real-time with other human beings” will connect people and help them to see that they’re “not alone in the challenges [they’re] facing,” Alexa Meyer, cofounder of mental health gym Coa, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.

“Collective healing will support individual healing and help us learn even more about individual health,” Hübl said. When it comes to healing and care, “the collective and individual are not separate. They work as an interdependent system.”

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