Tips to connect with your neighbors and combat social isolation
As humans, we experience a range of emotions that add nuance and richness to our lives as we navigate through different challenges. Loneliness is an inevitable part of that human experience. While everyone occasionally experiences feelings of loneliness, know that you’re not alone.
We can all help reduce feelings of isolation by building inclusive and compassionate communities. Nextdoor can help neighbors connect with those nearby to build real-world connections and a stronger sense of belonging.
Following Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Loneliness Awareness Week 2022 starts on June 13th. It’s an excellent time to inspire kindness, positivity, and connection in your neighborhood. During this week and beyond, here are some practical steps to help combat loneliness.
1. Get to know your neighbors
Connecting with your neighbors is not only courteous—it’s also a proven way to prevent loneliness. A global study from Nextdoor found that knowing just six of your neighbors can help reduce one’s feelings of isolation. It all starts with a gesture as simple as a wave.
Even just opening up to those around you can spark new relationships (or even save a neighbor’s life). To meet people in your community, look for connections in these places:
- Home – Your immediate neighbors are often the easiest people to approach. Try striking up a conversation while walking the dog, leaving a neighborly treat at their doorstep, or simply waving as you drive by.
- Local businesses — Spend some time at a favorite coffee shop or gym to meet like-minded locals while supporting your beloved business owners.
- Community gathering spots – Parks, schools, and community centers are all inviting places to meet new acquaintances. To engage with others, look on Nextdoor to find activities like group fitness classes, dog park meet-ups, or community volunteer opportunities.
Need ideas on how to start the conversation? With the guidance of world-renowned mental health experts, we’ve created a list of impactful ways to reduce loneliness.
2. Host a community gathering
To get the whole neighborhood involved, consider organizing a gathering with an open invitation for all to join. When everyone on the same block bands together to host a celebration, it provides an opportunity to make real-world lasting connections with those in their community
Plan a fun-for-all event by rallying other neighborhood volunteers on Nextdoor. Consider creating moments of delight by offering the following:
- Live music or entertainment
- A raffle
- Trivia games
- Square or line dancing
- Face painting or flash tattoos
- Food trucks
With Cigna reporting more than half of American adults feeling lonely, people are eager to meet friends in their communities. Take a look at some of the neighborhood meetup success stories that happened on Nextdoor:
- Abraham’s club – After moving to Alexandria, VA, Abraham posted on Nextdoor to find fellow dads in the community. He found a wonderful support network that turned into a strong and successful men’s club today.
- Joan’s documentary – With a post on Nextdoor, Joan recruited over 40 neighbors to join her next documentary film. Now, they’ve formed a crew to last well beyond a movie production.
- Shannon’s lunch – In Sydney, Shannon organized a lunch meetup for other nearby ladies on Nextdoor. Fifteen women joined her, and she’s now made long-lasting and supportive friends through all of life’s highs and lows.
3. Support local charities and organizations dedicated to fighting loneliness
You can also get involved with local organizations that are working to combat loneliness. Start by researching nearby nonprofits, foundations, and shelters that support community members and plan regular events. Ask about volunteering or donating opportunities to support their efforts. And don’t forget to spread the word about your fundraising online—one Nextdoor post can instantly alert all of your neighbors to a single event or organization.
You can make a difference by donating any of these resources:
- Goods and material items
- Online promotions and support
You can also show your support through acts of kindness. In Kent Island, MD, Nextdoor neighbor Rachel continually spreads cheer with her flower business, Sunkissed Flower Farm. Her neighbors always appreciate her dropping off gorgeous blooms at their doorsteps.
4. Find local friends in the digital world
In today’s world, social circles exist in two worlds—real life and online. The digital world is an amazing place to connect with your real-life neighbors, friends, and local organizations.
With platforms like Nextdoor, you can reach out to neighbors easier than ever before and turn those online connections into real-world friendships. Here are some ways to contribute to your community on Nextdoor:
- Connect with your neighbors and acquaintances
- Stay up-to-date with local businesses and organizations
- Share, like, and comment on local posts from your neighbors
- Post your own events and ideas for community members to see
- Create or join a Nextdoor group to around a shared interest or topic
Just like in real life, interactions on social media should be handled with decency and respect. A little kindness goes a long way towards making life easier, neighborhoods stronger, and the world a better place. Check out Nextdoor’s tips and resources to spread kindness in your community.
5. Visit retirement homes
Out of all populations, the elderly (especially those who live in retirement or nursing homes) experience significant loneliness—a fact that has only been amplified due to the pandemic. Luckily, you can make a positive social impact by supporting your elderly neighbors.
To start, consider volunteering with or planning an event at local retirement homes in your area (Nextdoor can help you locate them). Spread kindness to your aging community members by:
- Performing entertainment (talent show, music, etc.)
- Delivering flowers
- Teaching a workshop
- Cooking for groups
- Grooming hair and nails
- Playing cards and other board games
Beyond the retirement home, ask older neighbors or those who live alive if they need any help with errands or home maintenance tasks — Just be sure to follow COVID-19 guidelines to keep your community healthy. You can also help out elderly veterans in your neighborhood. Watch Nextdoor 100 recipient Laurie Brown supply groceries, clothing, and more to veterans across Lawrenceville, GA.
6. Find tools and organizations dedicated to fighting loneliness
If you want to truly combat loneliness, build your friendly arsenal by calling on professional tools, organizations, and educational resources.
Nextdoor created a Loneliness Toolkit with knowledge and tips you may need to fight loneliness for both yourself and others. In particular, we’ve assembled a strong group of organizations and mental health advocates that lead the fight against loneliness across the country. Check out these Nextdoor partners-in-friendship, including:
- The Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness offers expert-backed tools and resources to anyone experiencing social isolation or loneliness
- Far From Alone campaigns to spread anti-loneliness resources like phone lines, support groups, and mobile apps to increase social connectedness
- Brené Brown and the 19th Surgeon General of the United States spoke at length about the importance of connection in this era of loneliness
- Smiley Poswolsky, writer of the renowned Friendship in the Age of Loneliness, recommends a variety of books, podcasts, and support communities on her website to combat modern isolation
- The Lonely Hour podcast, hosted by Julia Bainbridge, opens the door to conversations about the individual struggles of people with loneliness and isolation.
- Daily Strength and Mental Health America are both group support directories, helping connect people with mental health issues to professionally-led peer support
- Eldercare Locator, another group support directory, connects aging and senior citizen individuals to life and mental wellbeing resources (housing, elder rights assistance, etc.). Talkspace is an excellent online alternative to in-person therapy. For one-on-one mental health support, consider meeting a licensed professional on Talkspace or in real life to create new coping skills tackling loneliness.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 to help assist in an immediate mental health crisis. Call the hotline if you have thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
- The Bright Spot Network is a light for cancer survivors with children of their own. They offer resources and support for individual and familial healing, recovery, and reconnection.Connect2Affect.org, the AARP Foundation’s center for elders experiencing loneliness, has a treasure trove of social resources. Support includes guidance articles, local assistance centers, and more.
Discover new connections with Nextdoor
There’s only one way to combat loneliness: together. The more you interact with others in your area, the more meaningful connections you can make. And it all starts with those right next Nextdoor.
If you are looking to spread a little kindness throughout your neighborhood, it’s time to connect with those nearby. Meet your soon-to-be friends and favorite local establishments by joining your neighborhood on Nextdoor. With a few posts, you can open the door to a stronger community. Check out our Kindness Hub with more tips, resources, and inspiring stories of neighbors coming together to build welcoming communities.
To connect with your local neighborhood, download the app or login at nextdoor.com.