This week on Next Door a man in the next town posted a message about not feeling a sense of neighborhood. He had lived in the same town for decades but over the years the neighborhood had changed. People moved away. New people had moved in and he now felt surrounded by strangers.
Dozens of people replied, saying they felt the same way—disconnected from community. Some blamed TV, social media, back yards instead of front porches, long commutes. But whatever the cause, many of us are feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation.
We need community. Psychologists have found that even brief moments of connecting ---"micromoments of connectivity," can dramatically raise our mood, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, relieve loneliness, and build physical and emotional well-being.These connections can be shared not only with close friends and family members but the grocery store clerk or anyone else you encounter in daily life. A simple smile, eye contact, presence, perhaps a kind word—that's all it takes.
To renew our neighborhoods and our lives, we need to cultivate community. We all need a circle of support and "nourishing network" is one of the five key steps to rebuilding our capacity to hope .
We can cultivate community in many ways. One of my neighbors has set up a "Little Free Library" in front of her house. This little library has become a regular part of my daily walks with my little dog Ginny. I often leave some of my books in there, then check to see if anyone has taken them, and sometimes take out an intriguing book to read myself. This simple act of giving and receiving is building community, one book at a time.
There are other small steps we can take— Sharing a friendly greeting with people you see, waving at a neighbor driving by, stopping to admire a neighbor's garden and introducing yourself. Sending a thoughtful card. Calling up a friend to meet at a local coffee shop.
By cultivating community, you not only build your own circle of support, but help to create a more cooperative, connected world.
What is one way you can cultivate community today?
 Winerman, L. (2022, May 9). COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in loneliness around the world. American Psychological Association.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/05/covid-19-increase-loneliness; Ernst, M. et al. (2022). Loneliness before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A systematic review with meta-analysis. American Psychologist, 77(5), 660-677.
 Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press
 Goetzke, K. (2022). The biggest little book about hope. (2nd edition). New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing. For more about her work, see https://kathryngoetzke.com/