A significant problem facing the rural and regional population of Australia is isolation.
It’s common for someone to drive hours to reach their nearest neighbour or ‘local’ shop which, over a period of time, can have detrimental effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.
I live in a small but busy regional town which has an absolutely great sense of community. Our kids play together after school; businesses encourage each other’s growth and when the chips are down, you know there’ll always be someone there to lend a hand.
The two are worlds apart.
What strikes me about this is how many people are living in a situation where they could be in a close relationship with their local community, but they just aren’t. They’re busy with work and don’t have time for small talk with the neighbours; they don’t have children so have no need to attend the local school fair, or perhaps they’re just a bit of a solitary being and prefer to keep their private life, private.
These are all valid reasons for not knowing your neighbours but belonging to a close community has been proven to improve your general health and wellbeing including reducing anxiety and fostering a sense of belonging.
If you’ve got neighbours but you don’t know their name, here are five ways you can get involved and remove unnecessary isolation from your home and street:
In the local op-shop, at community events or for a local group or club. Volunteering shows that you’re a community-minded team-player and is an excellent opportunity to get to know like-minded individuals. Your local online bulletin will have details of volunteering opportunities, or look up specific websites.
- Meet your neighbours:
Sounds simple but invite a few of your neighbours over for a barbeque or drinks. Put a note through the doors of everyone close to you. You might be surprised to see how many of your neighbours have been waiting for somebody to make a move!
- Use local stores:
The butcher, baker and local candlestick maker are always good for a chat. Use them regularly and not only are you giving back to local businesses, but you’ll also start to learn more about your community and the people in it.
- Go outside:
Put your Ipad down in the evening and go for a walk, run or cycle in the local area. If you stop and chat with people along the way, you’ll be seen as a pillar of the community in no time at all!
- Attend community functions:
School fairs, surf club contests and local exhibitions are all great ways to show your face in the neighbourhood. Once you’ve attended these functions a few times, have a look at how you can get involved.
Being part of a close-knit community is a two-way street and if you’re feeling that you’re not putting as much in as you could, implementing a few of these tips will help you get to know your neighbours as well as improving the overall quality of your life.
What have you got to lose?