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I’ve been referencing Susan Pinker’s book called The Village Effect for a couple of blog posts now, and I’m doing it because I really do believe in the science behind her work – that is, the importance of family and friends. Making human connections and being connected to others is important for our health and happiness. It’s just like eating your vegetables.

And yet, sometimes, making these connections can be hard. It’s challenging to put ourselves out there. Even for extroverts like myself…

I’m not proud to say it, but: I don’t know a lot of the people on my street. I have lived in my neighbourhood since about 1993, and in the same house for almost 18 years. Since realizing that I don’t know many of my neighbours (some of them I have never even talked to!), we’ve started hosting yearly neighbourhood gatherings. Twice a year, at the holidays and on Canada Day, we invite our neighbours for a drop-by visit and snacks.

Since this all started a couple of years ago I’ve hosted four gatherings – and you know what? Every time we open our doors, more of our neighbours show up!

I have a bit of a ritual that I follow when we host one of our gatherings. I start by having a friend help me write out the invitations (my handwriting sucks!), and then I walk around and knock on doors. I hand-deliver the invitations so that I can invite my neighbours in person and have a quick visit. But! For those few seconds as I’m walking up to their door I get anxiety; if they open the door, I’ll have to talk to them. But when they’re not home I actually get a bit disappointed. See what I mean? It’s hard, even for us extroverts.

The fact that more and more of our neighbours are coming is a major win for me. It shows that the effort I’m making to connect is paying off, and it is bringing people together.

Another major win is that I’ve become more than just a neighbour for two of the people on my street. The first is an 86 year old man who needed a notary, and because I’m a lawyer and also a neighbour he knows, I was able to help him out. And the second is that I’ve made a new friend. This friend moved into my neighbourhood in 2004, but we were a missed connection until I put myself out there and started hosting these annual events. I was blown away that I had lived so close to someone for so long who is so interesting, and who I otherwise wouldn’t have spent any meaningful time with.

The point is that I am saying if you are trying to build your own community and extended family to stick with it. What I have been noticing is that making these connections is worth it. They have been enriching my life and that of my family, and my hope is that my efforts to connect are just as enriching for my neighbours, too.

Try it out for yourself – see what happens!

If you’re looking for ideas on how to reach out to neighbours, or even to friends that you already have, download my free e-book called The Door Is Always Open. In it I’ve shared tips for fun and easy ways to bring friends and family together on the regular, so that you can make tighter bonds that are so very necessary for our overall health and happiness.