If you were asked to think of the important people in your life, who would come to mind? Probably your parents, siblings, friends, spouse, children, etc. But what about your neighbors? Do you know them? Feel comfortable around them? If you needed a cup of sugar, would you go next door to borrow one? I would venture to say that most people would not.
I am incredibly fortunate to call many of my neighbors friends, (We became acquainted because of a small problem, but I’m now so grateful for that problem because it is what allowed us to connect!).
A group of us gather together at least a couple of times a year for holidays or parties.
At one point, we exchanged contact information so that we could easily notify one another of a situation or need.
I find great comfort in the knowledge that we are there to take care of each other; someone is looking out for my family; and I can do the same in return.
This lends itself to a sense of community, which is incredibly important for overall mental health.
As humans, we long to feel a sense of connectedness and belonging. One way to create this is to cultivate relationships with neighbors.
Research has indicated that a sense of closeness and friendship with neighbors is beneficial, and that our neighborhoods influence our health, education and overall well-being.
It has also been consistently shown that negative experiences (such as violence) within neighborhoods is harmful to individual and community mental health.
Additional research conducted in Canada highlighted that community cohesion is actually declining as compared to previous decades, and thus working toward social connectedness in neighborhoods can have positive benefits.
Below are some simple ways to reach out to neighbors you may not know very well:
Smile and say hello! Create an opportunity to introduce yourself.
Plan a casual get together (coffee and dessert or happy hour). Post fliers on community mailboxes or hand deliver to your neighbors.
Contact the local police station and host a Neighborhood Watch Activity so that everyone can contribute to a safer environment.
If you haven’t seen a neighbor in a while or notice something out of the ordinary, knock on his/her door and check in.
Offer to take your neighbors’ trash cans out for trash day.
If your neighbor’s paper is still at the end of the driveway by late afternoon, place it on his/her porch (I met a wonderful neighbor this way!).
Occasionally put small treats or notes in mailboxes for holidays (Halloween would be a great time to do this!).
Take walks through your neighborhood when possible. You will undoubtedly meet some of your neighbors this way.
Sadly, so many people don’t make any effort to speak with their neighbors. We drive into our garages or are looking down at our phones as we walk through the door and miss the opportunity to connect.
The potential friendships right next door may surprise you. Use these tips to reach out, make an effort, and get to know your neighbors!
Dr. Traci Lowenthal is the owner of Creative Insights Counseling, a counseling agency in Redlands serving individuals, families, and couples. She can be reached at 909-240-7833.