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Why We Need Our Neighbors

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Relating in helpful ways, in particular, seems to do us a world of good. A variety of studies have shown that regular face-to-face helpfulness, including acts of volunteerism and neighborly goodwill, can contribute significantly to physical health and happiness — a natural, endorphin-fueled phenomenon known as a “helper’s high.”

Communities give us all kinds of opportunities to be friendly and helpful, of course, from lending a neighbor a cup of milk to supporting a local church project or providing an elderly acquaintance a caring ear. And if the collected research on helping is accurate, the value we get from offering such small acts of daily kindness would be hard to overrate.

Why We Go Our Separate Ways

The forces that pull us together are strong. But in today’s overly busy, materialistic and stretched-thin world, so are the forces that pull us apart.

In Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (Berrett-Koehler, 2005), John de Graaf and his colleagues describe the toxic cycle of overwork, overspending and debt that causes many Americans to disconnect from cooperative, community-based activities of all kinds — and to suffer as a result.

“We may wish we could look outside ourselves,” they write, “but we’re just too busy, too uncertain where to start, or too tired.” And so we stay focused on our own problems and our own little worlds.

The trouble is, the more we isolate, the less we acknowledge that we need anything from others. And the less we tend to care or notice what others might need from us.

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

90 comments

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11:18AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

I've never known any of my neighbors, never played with kids in my neighborhood either. My parents built a giant wall surrounding the house so I never really left home as a kid. I wish I did live in an area where the community was united.

8:12PM PST on Nov 14, 2011

i remember when a whole town was our neighbors. now is so different.

2:37PM PDT on Aug 1, 2010

We live out in the country and most of our neighbors are pretty far away from our house. We all pitch in when something needs to get done, plowing roads full of snow for an example. Every trades food during the holidays and every once in a while we all get together at someone's house for an ice cream social. home theater seating

9:26PM PDT on May 18, 2010

Why we need them? Basically because "no man is an island". We can't live alone. Therefore as a social being we need neighbors to deal with. They may not live up to our expectations but at least they are there to give colors to our lives.Thanks!

3:32PM PDT on Mar 14, 2010

I love your article because it specifially addresses and calls attention to a very important topic: isolated populations. I think more discussion on this topic needs to happen and especially in households across the country. What is being done to create a support network in local communities to mobilize action and inform families about this issue? How can we as individuals contribute our effort to the solutions that will solve this problem?

Please visit my site and read my blogs on family projects and more.
Read my blogs for more ideas:
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1411482
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1404855
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1402575
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1402575

2:30AM PST on Mar 5, 2010

Any person could greatly benefit from having a good neighbor. They are not only there to hand you a cup of sugar when you need one. They are contributing factors in making a livable, secured and enjoyable place for living.
acekard 2

7:08PM PST on Feb 27, 2010

to busy anymore to be real neighbors.

9:04AM PST on Feb 24, 2010

neighbor's are not like they use to be, every one is just to busy with life to slow down and meet people

5:17AM PST on Feb 22, 2010

Thanks Jon for this new to me info about isolation and shortening your life. 'Community' is a major step towards peace. I read, "Community Making and Peace", by, I forget his name and my books are in boxes!, but it was way ahead of it's time.

This was years ago, and even then his idea was that by developing smaller, self-contained communities where everyone was involved with each other, and the running of their center, it produced more caring people, doing more for the environment and the world. Eventually this would lead to world peace. That's pretty simplistic, but what I remember from the book.

It makes sense that having everyone involved with how their town develops, this would solve a lot of problems, and yet, I think we're a long way from it!! Although, we're much, much closer, with a lot more people caring, than we were 25 years ago. With world knowledge increasing at such a rapid pace, and so many of us evolving, it is possible that this will happen a lot sooner than most would suspect.

1:56PM PST on Feb 21, 2010

It does make all the difference on how you feel about where you live,I agree.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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