Chapter 1

The great – but undervalued – importance of neighbour relations

Many of us know that strong social bonds, like the ones we have with our family and close friends, are crucial to our wellbeing

However, our study shows that even the briefest interactions with our neighbours, like a simple hello, can have a significant impact on our happiness. Since close friends and family members perhaps live further away, the smaller day-to-day interactions become important to feel a sense of safety and connection in the community where you live. But in a highly individualistic society, everyday interactions with people we don’t know as well, like our neighbours, are often overlooked or even avoided.

Explore how interacting with you neighbours can impact your level of neighbourhood happiness

“As we have become more self-sufficient and individualistic, we tend to depend – or at least believe that we depend – less on one another. So, when we think of ways to become happier, many of us focus on our individual aspects – such as making a career or optimising our health – rather than turning outwards”

/ Markku Ojanen, Professor of Psychology

This happens in our bodies when we interact with people

According to science journalist Marta Zaraska, interacting with our neighbours isn’t only beneficial for our happiness and social wellbeing, it has concrete physical health benefits as well:

Just the act of eye contact can be enough for our body to release what we call ”social hormones” – such as oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins – which are linked to feelings of love, happiness and pleasure. The hormones boost our mood and make us feel good, but there are also many positive, direct health effects, like reducing inflammation and regulating blood pressure.

A tip from the happiness expert: Apply the Japanese rule of five

In Japan there is something called “the rule of five”, which means you should know the neighbours on the two sides of your house, and the three houses in front of yours. Let’s add another rule of five: try to talk to five neighbours a month, or one neighbour for at least five minutes, and see what comes out of it!

/ Marta Zaraska, Science journalist

Chapter 2

The key neighbourhood happiness amplifiers: engaging, sharing and helping