Having good neighbors can have a huge impact on our lives. They are nearby in case of an emergency, can lend a hand (or a tool) in a pinch and when loved ones live far away, can check on the well-being of an elderly resident or new parents. Although it is often said that good fences make good neighbors, getting to know your neighbors – at least casually – can brighten your day, boost a sense of community and belonging, and help combat social isolation and loneliness.
But according to a recent Good Housekeeping article, a 2018 Pew Research Center study found that only 26 percent of Americans surveyed said they knew most of their neighbors. Although two-thirds of respondents said they were comfortable leaving a set of house keys with some of their neighbors for emergencies, 58 percent said they never socialized with their neighbors.
In other research, data suggests that people either tend to have very strong relationships with their neighbors or virtually no relationship. Yet our relationships with our neighbors can have a direct impact on how happy we are living somewhere. More positive relationships improve mental health and well-being.
As many people experienced during the quarantine of 2020, our neighbors became more important in a time when we couldn’t socialize with friends and family. Neighbors offered an opportunity for human contact and support, even if it was across a driveway or lawn. Since the pandemic, people have realized the importance of having a relationship with neighbors to help make life a little happier.
With more time to walk the dog, garden, or cycle local trails, many neighborhoods grew closer as a result of COVID-19. Facebook subdivision pages alerted neighbors where toilet paper and sanitizing wipes were in stock, or where to find yeast and baking flour. When faced with so much uncertainty, more people reached out to their neighbors, gathering for a socially distanced coffee or cocktail or door-dropping groceries.
But, sadly all neighborhoods are not blessed with considerate residents who pick up after their pets, keep their yards tidy, and homes in good repair. They don’t all bring freshly-baked muffins or share the harvest from a backyard garden, and some are downright miserable. But keeping interactions positive from early on with a smile and a wave, and being courteous about entertaining can go a long way towards neighborhood peace. Keep in mind that unannounced visits are generally unwelcome, and some people are by nature more private.
So, while the weather is still nice, and people are outdoors, take a moment to talk with your neighbor – it could be a bright spot in the day for both of you. Listen to a recent Apple Podcast, Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, featuring Marissa King, professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, to learn more about building better relationships.