A lot goes into building safe, strong communities. While no single factor can be highlighted as more important than another in regard to building strong communities, a willingness on the part of residents to connect with their neighbors can greatly benefit local neighborhoods and the people who call those communities home.
According to Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting the mental health of all Americans, research has shown that social connections increase happiness and lead to improved overall health and even longer lives. Adults may find that establishing a connection with their communities, and maintaining that connection while juggling the responsibilities of work and a family, is not always so easy. That’s especially so for adults who have recently relocated to new areas. Reaching out to neighbors can be a great way for adults to build new relationships that can benefit them as individuals and strengthen their communities.
• Don’t be shy. People often want to know who’s living next door, so adults who have recently moved need not be shy about introducing themselves to their new neighbors. Introduce yourself and share what inspired you to move to your new neighborhood.
• Answer and ask questions. Neighbors will no doubt ask questions when you introduce yourself, so be ready to answer these questions. Questions may focus on your career and where you grew up. If you grew up in the area where you recently moved, some of your neighbors likely did as well. Sharing stories about your school days and/or local hotspots can be a great way to break the ice. Don’t hesitate to ask some questions of your own as well. Asking questions might reveal some common interests that can serve as strong foundations for budding relationships.
• Host a backyard barbecue. Backyard barbecues are laid back affairs, and that pressure-free atmosphere is perfect for meeting new neighbors. Once you have settled in, invite a handful of your neighbors over for the barbecue. If you have children, invite neighbors who also are parents, ideally ones whose children are the same age as your own. Kids have sparked many a conversation, and discussions about local schools, parks and programs for youngsters can be great ice breakers.
• Volunteer. Volunteering with community-based organizations is another great way to meet new neighbors. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you identify with may be even better, as you’re likely to find like-minded neighbors who share your passions when working with such groups.
Strong communities are built around people. When moving to a new community, adults can overcome the challenges such relocations present by taking various steps to connect with their new neighbors.