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Gardening and litter-picking brings joy to our post-covid neighbourhoods says new research

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person in brown shorts watering the plants

Finding joy and wellbeing are phrases we are all familiar with, whether it’s ways to avoid working from home burnout or how to combat the stress of changes over the last few years, many of us have looked for ways to build happiness.

But new research has shown that the key to happiness is within our local communities and through getting involved in local groups we can not only create joy for ourselves but also give back to those around us. 

Most of us will have joined the local pub quiz or aerobics class once or twice, but a recent poll of 3,000 adults by community retailer SPAR revealed it is group activities with shared interest and local charity causes that bring us together and make us feel part of something larger. 

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The activities that had a particularly strong impact on those saying they were very happy in their community included groups where we are giving back or connecting with others on our passions:

  • Dog walking groups (53%)
  • Book clubs (50%)
  • Community gardening clubs (50%)
  • Public walks (49%)
  • Litter picking groups (49%) 

When looking at the types of activities we get involved in and a snapshot of our community groups, the most attended events across the UK included: 

  • Jumble sales – 16.7 million attend
  • Fitness groups – 13.5 million attend 
  • Baby & Mum Clubs – 10.8 million attend 
  • Community get togethers e.g. pub quiz – 9.7 million attend 
  • Local charitable causes – 9.1 million attend 

The report studied how we feel about our community and what positive effects it can have on us and our neighbours. A third of those surveyed (32%) said it was important to them to feel like they were needed in the community, and 21% added that they want to feel they are a part of something. A huge 57% added that they want to make a positive difference to the local area and 42% said that the community takes care of each other. 

The research also found that an impressive 31% of us are involved in activities for local causes including improving the area for others, with the top events attended including coffee mornings (49%), jumble sales (43%) and community fun walks or runs (39%). Gen Z came out top as the most charitable, with 18-24 year olds most likely to be involved with local community projects, such as litter pick-ups, with nearly a quarter (24%) helping others.

New community activities have also taken the nation by storm in recent years so if dog walking or book clubs aren’t your thing now is the time to sign up to a new group.  Bird watching groups have become more popular with 16% saying they attend and groups like Flock Together taking the twitching world by storm. Even activities such as vintage fairs and jumble sales are a way to get involved, and it seems we are a nation of bargain hunters as boot sales came out top as the most popular activity across the UK (31%).

John Drury, a social psychologist, specialising in the study of collective behaviour at the University of Sussex, commented: “These findings underline the role that local community plays in people’s lives, finding a strong association between the number of groups that people were involved in and their increased happiness in living more locally.”

“It’s no coincidence that the activities that were found to drive happiness most – such as gardening clubs and dog walking – are all activities that allow people to extend their social circle and form new friendships. It’s also worth noting that some of the most popular activities locally, such as litter picking and community gardening, serve to improve the community environment and produce a virtuous circle of happiness in the local community.”

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The best way to stay up to date with events and groups in your area is to join local Facebook pages – 53% of people find out what is going on in their community via these groups, followed by the local paper (48%) and details in local shops and cafes (41%). Joining is simple and you will soon get to grips with how things work in your neighbourhood. 

SPAR, who have over 2,600 stores across the country, commissioned the poll which also revealed the most community driven locations in the country, including: 

  1. Neath Port Talbot
  2. Norwich
  3. Dunfermline
  4. Swansea
  5. Barnsley
  6. Hackney
  7. Derry/Londonderry
  8. Plymouth
  9. Chelmsford
  10. Preston

Find out more at https://www.spar.co.uk/community-cashback

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