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community building

 

Since our earliest days on the planet, humans have not just simply coexisted but thrived in close-knit communities. Belonging to a group was actually critical to our ancestors’ survival in prehistoric times, as individuals were unable to feed or defend themselves against threats on their own.

Today, things have obviously changed. Most of humanity is no longer running from predators on a daily basis, nor are we spending our days hunting for wild game and building stick huts to sleep in. In fact, for those of us fortunate enough to live in thriving modern communities around the world, survival is barely a blip on our radars.

The dawn of the internet has allowed most of us to live almost completely independent lives. We can make friends, get groceries, buy clothes, earn a college degree, and even maintain a full-time job without having to leave the safety of our homes. Yet, while this level of independence may seem desirable at first blush, it can lead to major problems over time. Just because we can physically survive outside of a community doesn’t mean we can also mentally and emotionally thrive on our own. 

Good mental health requires a rich social life and connection to one’s community, which, fortunately, isn’t as far out of reach as some might believe. We’ve compiled a list of simple activities that nearly anyone can partake in to form new and deeper relationships with neighbors and members of the community. 

1. Volunteer.

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding and engaging activities you can do to connect with your community and serve. Your time is a gift, and any amount of time spent giving back to those in need is valuable. It’s also a lot more accessible than many people realize. 

Some may think of volunteering as a physically demanding act of service, which can certainly be true for some organizations. However, there are so many other volunteering opportunities that don’t require much more than showing up with a smile and a good attitude. 

Websites like VolunteerMatch and Volunteers of America let you search for local opportunities that are a good fit for you and your interests. You can find both one-time and recurring opportunities to fit into your schedule as well as customize your search based on your skillset, physical abilities, and areas of interest. 

Volunteering is a great way to give back directly to your community while also sharing camaraderie with your neighbors! It can even help you discover new passions.

2. Host social events for your neighbors 

Book clubs, anyone? While you may think of reading groups as an activity for stay-at-home moms, these and other similar social events can be a really fun way to connect with new friends in your town. You can pick nearly any type of activity - potluck dinner, game night, wine tasting, etc. - and make it an enjoyable event to forge friendships with neighbors. You can even check with your local food or drink venues about renting space for an evening and opening your party to the public. Apps like Nextdoor make it really easy to connect with other residents of your city and spread the word about local events. 

The prospect of hosting a social event may feel a little awkward or intimidating at first, but I guarantee that your neighbors will be extremely grateful to you for taking the initiative. Chances are that they are just as eager to be friends with you as you are to be with them, and getting to know your neighbors also promotes overall neighborhood safety.

3. Share your skills through workshops and classes.

You don’t have to be a teacher to spread your wealth of knowledge to others. Everyone has a hobby or interest that’s worth sharing with others. Whether it’s art or cooking classes, organizational skills, or even homemaking, you can create your own classroom for the community.

Consider offering a free workshop for your neighborhood or checking out your local community centers for opportunities to lead or create a workshop or class. You may be surprised at how many of your neighbors want to learn from you!

4. Try a new hobby. 

Conversely, if you’re not so keen on hosting your own class, consider just attending one instead. Pick a hobby, any hobby - there’s probably someone in your town who is a secret (or public) pro and willing to teach their skills. Check out your community rec center for local classes on art, music, cooking, sports, and other fun educational opportunities. Or, check out Meetup for even more specialized interest groups like Spanish language clubs or camps for coders. It’s never too late in life to learn something new!

5. Support local businesses.

Local businesses are comprised of the people who live in, care about, and want to invest in your community. Therefore, shopping local benefits both you and your neighbors and it opens up avenues for new friendships. It feels good to know that you’re giving your dollars to the couple down the street trying to follow their dreams. The fact that you’re also supporting your local economy is just a side benefit.

You can support your neighborly small business owners by shopping from farmers’ markets, independent gift stores, family-owned restaurants, and even local gyms. Become a regular, and you just might find yourself with some new lifelong friends!

Whatever brings fulfillment to your social life, we hope that you feel empowered to forge new friendships and reinforce old ones with your community. We are all stronger together, regardless of age, race, income, or any other social boundaries. Don’t wait to get started - you’ve got some beautiful relationships waiting for you already!

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