Chapter 2

The key neighbourhood
happiness amplifiers: engaging,
sharing and helping

Going beyond small, social interactions, there are things we can do to increase the level of happiness even more.
We call them the three happiness amplifiers: 1) engaging 2) sharing and 3) helping.

1: Engaging in your neighbourhood

Doing things together as well as being able to influence the neighbourhood has been proven to be important for residents’ wellbeing. Therefore, it’s positive to see that there’s a lot of interest in engaging in activities to maintain the neighbourhood, such as painting or clearing weeds. We can also see that people who live in a neighbourhood where it’s easy to initiate activities on average report 30 percent higher neighbourhood happiness.

Top 3 list: Activities we’d like to do with our neighbour

  1. Social gatherings, e.g. BBQ or local celebration
  2. Maintain the neighbourhood, e.g. painting, clearing weeds or cleaning
  3. Physical training, e.g. running, walking or yoga

A tip from the happiness expert: Socialize through exercise

Did you know that doing things in synchrony with others releases even more happy hormones? That’s a good reason for taking a walk or a jog with your neighbour!

/ Marta Zaraska, Science journalist

2: Sharing spaces and things with your neighbours

The sharing economy is growing movement to support the planet, but sharing spaces and things is also a way to increase the sense of community in neighbourhoods and combat isolation. Our own study shows that people who have common places where they can enjoy spending time are 19 percent happier in their neighbourhoods. So, the positive effects of sharing are many. But what things and spaces are people most willing to share with their neighbours?

The things and spaces we are most willing to share with our neighbours

3: Giving your neighbour a helping hand

A third way to amplify both your own and the neighbourhood happiness is to give your neighbour a helping hand. Our study shows that people who have helped, lent or given something to their neighbour report higher levels of neighbourhood happiness. The more frequently these acts are practiced, the higher the levels of happiness. Further, people who live in neighbourhoods where they believe neighbours are willing to help each other when needed report being 40 percent happier in their neighbourhoods.

A tip from the happiness expert: Don’t hesitate to offer help

People are very independent these days, but we can all do with a helping hand from time to time. If you know a neighbour that might need some help with grocery shopping or pet sitting – don’t hesitate to offer your help!

/ Markku Ojanen, Professor of Psychology

Why we get happier by helping others

Even though many of us may feel it can be difficult to fit in helping a neighbour into the day-to-day schedule, doing so actually might help to relieve our bodies of the stress of everyday life. Science journalist Marta Zaraska explains how:
– When we help others our bodies activate our so called “caregiving systems” which in turn triggers our reward system, to let our bodies know we are doing something good. It also lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens the fight-or-flight response our body has when experiencing stressful situations. The more time we spend helping others and thereby activating our caregiving systems, the more time we ease our bodies of the stresses of daily life, and in the long run, improve our health.

Chapter 3

The triple win of happy neighbourhoods