With the new year brings a renewed focus on health, and your neighbourhood can be a reflection of this too…

By Veronica Logan

The start of a new year often ushers in a time of reflection on old or unhealthy choices we’ve made in the year gone by. Often, we focus on our dietary choices, exercise routine (or lack thereof!) as well as our work/life balance, but we hardly focus on the neighbourhood we call home.

According to experts, the neighbourhood you live in plays a significant role in your overall sense of health and wellbeing. It contributes hugely to how safe and at peace you feel, what access you have to necessary amenities as well as the convenience and benefits of accessing those particular amenities.

With this in mind, we’ve identified four key health features that should be used to assess your current neighbourhood and the role it’s playing on your ability to live healthily as well as a tool to assist you when looking for a new and health-promoting neighbourhood in the future.

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Access to outdoor and exercise opportunities

Neighbourhoods that are well-suited to walking, running or biking have become increasingly important in today’s day in age as it directly affects how easy it is for us to get and stay active.

Having access to well-maintained and safe streets, running or bike trails as well as having essential places such as local stores or restaurants within walking distance are all key in helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Similarly, having a local neighbourhood gym close by is also another important thing to consider as it’s much harder to head home and forgo the gym when getting there is no longer an onerous mission!

The degree of green

Another hugely important health factor to consider when assessing a neighbourhood is to look at how green it is as well as to interrogate what green infrastructure and sustainability practices are in place.

For example, take the time to notice how many trees there are in the neighbourhood as these play a crucial role in our overall health and sense of mental wellbeing – in fact, one recent study showed that people who live in neighbourhoods with a lot of greenery are likely to take fewer antidepressants than those who live in less green neighbourhoods.

Likewise, make a point of researching or asking your local municipality what recycling programmess and water management systems are in place as these should be designed to assist in and improve the quality of life for you and the rest of the neighbourhood.

Proximity to local markets

Living in a neighbourhood that is close to a local farmers market is another helpful feature to consider when pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Being able to stop in at a local market and pick up fresh produce without having to endure the hustle and bustle of the supermarket can do wonders for one’s mental health and wellbeing.

Fresh produce from local growers is also often healthier for us as they are less likely to contain harmful chemicals or pesticides like those grown on a mass-scale for supermarkets.

Furthermore, moving towards supporting local farmers and business does wonders for the overall sense of wellbeing and health within a neighbourhood community.

Opportunity to be involved

It goes without saying that getting involved in your neighbourhood community can do wonders for the health of you and your soul, so evaluating what community groups and activities are on offer – or even possible in the future – hugely contributes to the number of opportunities a neighbourhood offers you in terms of leading or promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Being able to get involved or join groups that make your neighbourhood better, healthier, cleaner and safer definitely goes a long way to boosting your sense of purpose and connection.

The added bonus? Your involvement helps to improve your neighbourhood which, in turn, also affects your mental and emotional health, so take the time, if you can, to get involved and participate in local municipal or neighbourhood meetings and discussions.

Also consider joining in on neighbourhood clean-ups or other events that take place around you.

Similarly, the ability to be neighbourly and connect with those around you goes a long way to making you feel healthier and promotes a very strong sense of wellbeing.

Some studies have even shown that having a strong and connected neighbourhood network helps reduce and combats stress levels so make an effort to get to know your neighbours directly or by joining the local community WhatsApp group if you’re shy.

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At the end of the day, whether you’ve lived in your current neighbourhood for years or are looking at moving somewhere new, all of us are faced with a fresh chance and exciting opportunity to pursue a healthier and more positive lifestyle for ourselves and our families.

The role your neighbourhood plays is vital in terms of promoting or hindering this healthier, more balanced lifestyle so this year, don’t see your home as just the place that you live in – see it as part of what makes you feel happy, healthy and ready to tackle the year ahead!

This article was first published on www.privateproperty.co.za

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