mybackyard2_mar17Can introducing myself to my neighbor affect the health and happiness of society? 

There is a social epidemic in our nation. It is the decline of human interaction, neighborhood engagement, and civic participation within our communities. We meet our neighbors less, have less conversations, volunteer less, and join fewer community groups. We are taking community for granted.

The explosion of the internet and social media, combined with the generational evolution of our social behavior, have shifted how we engage with others. Social media has taken precedence over human interaction and conversation. We are better connected but less united than ever before. This reality revealed itself in a big way during the recent Presidential election. Who knew we were so divided?

Studies show that how we connect with, receive from, and contribute to community is vital to our health and happiness. Our self-esteem, confidence, and well-being is directly tied to our sense of belonging to community. As we withdraw and insulate ourselves from others, it triggers a progression of disconnection. We engage less in conversation. Because we talk less, we relate less. It affects how we trust and respect others, which leads to bias and ignorance, and can fuel hate.

Many that withdraw, or are withdrawn from, become lonely which leads to depression and despair, and often to mental or emotional disorders. Any of these conditions can lead to self-abuse or worse, senseless violence and harm toward others. The trend of declining human interaction and civic participation has been studied at length over the past 25 years and the results speak loudly. When we disengage, it has a negative impact on both our personal health and happiness, and the well-being of our communities.

The good news is, the reverse effect occurs for individuals and communities that are more actively engaged. A summary from one study cites that civically involved adults have greater self-esteem and better personal relationships. Additionally, they have fewer illnesses, lower levels of depression, and they even live longer. Neighborhoods with higher levels of civic participation have a greater sense of community, lower levels of crime, and citizens who are healthier and happier. States and countries with greater proportions of civically engaged citizens have lower rates of disease, mental illness, and suicide. They, too, have lower crime rates, as well as having greater economic prosperity, better educated children, and more effective governments.

True to our history, when we are in crisis, we come together. There is a renewed awareness and focus on reconnecting in community. Many are stepping forward and looking for ways to contribute and become active in their communities. We must take a grass roots approach, connecting in our neighborhoods, to impact change throughout our cities and states. It begins by realizing and owning our individual responsibility to our community and appreciating the fact that we have the freedom of choice to be a part of the solution, and the power and grace to make a difference.

For those that are already active and participating, thank you. We need you at the forefront of this movement to bring others along. Helping others engage improves their health and happiness, and that of the community.

So yes, go introduce yourself to your neighbor. If you already know him or her, walk across the street or hall and meet someone new. You need your community and your community needs you. Let’s get plugged in!

About the author:

Ken Todd, the founder of MyBackyard, LLC recently introduced a new neighborhood platform designed to raise awareness and create a movement of citizens dedicated to connectedness and engagement in our communities. He grew up in Southeast Denver and lives in the Wash Park area with his wife and two pugs. Perhaps you’ve seen his MyBackyard vehicle “Gracie” around the neighborhood. Their start up just finished a pilot in the Wash Park area and they are poised to flip the switch on 50-100 Metro Denver neighborhoods in the coming months, with the vision of uniting neighborhoods across our nation.

They are developing new features that will allow local non-profits to profile their causes, and bring a convenient resource to neighbors who want to contribute or volunteer. Other new features provide a place for neighbors to RAVE about their community by posting photos, recommending local merchants, or recognizing random acts of kindness by other community members. A RANT area will even allow those who wish to voice their frustration with community issues, to get on their soap-box and have their say. “Hey, we all have our days and sometimes we just need to get things off our chest!”

Ken is dedicated to reversing the decline of human interaction and wants to provide a platform that inspires connectedness, participation, and sharing. “We all have a natural human grace within us. We just need to share it with others more often. It’s the little things that we do that help lift each other up. Giving back and lifting the spirits of others has a profound ripple effect on our communities. Individually, we can all contribute to impacting the health, happiness, and connectedness in our society.”

More about MyBackyard:

MyBackyard’s Mission: A reunited America, transformed by citizens practicing civic and community engagement with kindness, respect, inclusion, and human grace.

MyBackyard provides an opportunity for neighbors, business owners, and non-profit organizations to connect, network, engage, share, support, organize, and make a difference in evolving community participation.

Membership is free to anyone who lives, or operates a business or non-profit organization within each neighborhood. Please join us now at and help spread the word.

MyBackyard is a community where:

• we can share information, opinions, resources, and ideas.

• people care about people and community.

• your merchant, home-based business, or non-profit organization can grow and thrive.

• you can organize and mobilize with other like-hearted people for a cause or movement.

• we break down the biases that can help heal our nation.

• generation Y, X, and Boomers work together for a greater cause.

• we support the local commerce and non-profit organizations serving our community.

• we practice becoming the neighbors and community members we strive to be.