Using the Community Around You to Help Your Mental Health

Where we live, and who we surround ourselves with, have a big impact on our mental health. According to Remedy Psychiatry, “neighborhoods with higher levels of social cohesion experience lower rates of mental health problems than neighborhoods with lower social cohesion.” And it has nothing to do with how affluent a neighborhood is.

Benefits of a Sense of Belonging 

If you live in a community that fosters interactions with neighbors, it can offer a sense of belonging. Additionally, having neighbors or friends who know about your comings and goings can increase your sense of security. It’s nice to know that when you go out of town, you can have a neighbor check your mail for you, or keep an eye on your home.


Additionally, being part of a community means there is always someone there to buoy you up, whether it’s with a listening ear, a meal, or helping carpool the kids. Likewise, when you’re in a good place in your life, your community can offer you opportunities to give back and find a purpose. You see where you fit into the bigger picture, and how your actions and efforts can impact others.


On the flip side, if you spend too much time in your own head, your mental and emotional health can suffer. Alpine Clinic lists loneliness as one of the major contributors to poor mental health, whereas finding joy in things you love to do can improve mental health. 


Dangers of Social Isolation


  • Increased risk of premature death

  • Increased risk of developing dementia

  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke

  • Greater likelihood of developing depression and/or anxiety

  • Poorer quality of sleep

How to Find Your Community

Not all of us are fortunate enough to move into a neighborhood and immediately connect with the people living around us. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find our community. Here are some ways you can do so.

Hobbies

Do you love to play pickleball, take your dog to the park, or talk about the latest book you’ve read? Chances are there are others in your area who share some of the same hobbies. You may need to seek out these people by joining your local recreation center, looking online for pup parent meetups, or starting your own book club. Join a team that regularly gets together to play sports, attend classes at local art studios, or make yourself a regular at a karaoke bar.


Pursuing your hobbies gets you in touch with others who have the same interests. You may only see these people once a week in your regularly scheduled class, but even if that’s all, it gives you something to outlook forward to. Don’t be afraid to expand upon your connections with others, and find more ways you can get together outside of a shared hobby.

Pursue Your Passion

Joining forces with other neighbors and parents to pursue passions is another way to find your community. Serving in a volunteer organization for your local school, church, or community center allows you to give back and bond with like-minded individuals. As you work together to support causes you believe in, you’ll see just how connected you are with others. Plus, if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a charitable organization, you may feel more deserving of the assistance after having been involved on the other side at some point.

Learn Someone’s Name

Maybe you don’t have enough time to add activities to your plate. If so, that’s fine! Just take a minute to learn the name of a neighbor, or someone you see regularly. If you live in a Master Planned Community like Cadence in Henderson, Nevada, you’ll likely run into the same people over and over again on the walking trails, at the splash pad, or the shopping just minutes away. 


Strike up a conversation with that familiar face and learn their name; when you run into them again they’ll be delighted to be remembered. Studies show there’s a unique response in the brain when someone hears their own name, even for someone in a vegetative state. If it’s impactful enough to register a response in a coma, think of the reaction of someone out and about.


Tips for Learning Someone’s Name


  • Make eye contact with and pay attention to the person

  • Be more interested in listening than in talking

  • Repeat their name aloud right after they tell you

  • Repeat their name throughout the conversation

  • Identify a feature of the person that you can remember and associate with their name

  • Use a mnemonic device to memorize the name

  • Before ending the conversation, repeat the name back one more time


Since hearing one’s own name has such a positive impact on the brain, it’s likely the person won’t mind if they have to repeat their name so you can remember it or pronounce it correctly. 

How to Build Up Your Community

For decades, communities have created places to get together and chew the fat. Whether it was a general store, a pub, or a town hall, neighbors like having a central hub for sharing news and connecting. Many establishments today want to carry on the tradition of being a gathering place, including Lake Effect bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. They put an emphasis on the history of the pub, and what it means to be a part of a community. In addition to being a place to share a drink and a meal, a place like a bar is also a venue for live shows or receptions that bring people together. 


So, what are some ways you can build up your community and give others a sense of belonging? It may take trial and error, but you could try the following:

Host a Neighborhood Yard Sale

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Why not ask neighbors if tey have any items they’d like to get rid of and schedule a multi-family yard sale? You’ll not only declutter, but you’ll get to know your neighbors as you organize and carry out the sale. Plus, having more families involved may draw in more customers so you increase your chances of actually unloading some of your belongings and pocketing some cash. Better yet, maybe you’re raising money for a charitable cause, offering more incentive for neighbors to get involved.

Install a Little Free Library

Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? They’re an organization that links book lovers across the globe. You can purchase a kit to make a library for your front yard (or other approved area), or make your own from scratch. Once your library is registered, you can stock it yourself or ask neighbors to contribute books they’re ready to part with. Some Little Free Library stewards also include crafts, shelf-stable pantry items, or other trinkets to share with the community. The premise is that anyone walking by can take a book from or leave a book in the little, outdoor library.

Doorbell Ditch 

These days, it’s hard to truly doorbell ditch anyone since most of us have camera doorbells. But, you can still leave a holiday gift on your neighbor’s porches in order to connect. Whether you stick around to say hello in person or just leave your phone number or info for joining a neighborhood Facebook group, it’s a great way to initiate connection. 


It can be difficult to reach out and build relationships with others, but the benefits are worth it. You can start small by joining local groups that already exist, and perhaps you’ll work your way up to spearheading something of your own.

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