Life can be busy and stressful, especially for those of us trying to make ends meet. We work long hours, rush through meals, cart our kids around and run errands. We often don’t think we have time to add anymore activities to our already full schedules.

But making time to connect with those around us can have a dramatic effect. A few minutes talking with a neighbor, an hour of time spent on a worthy cause, or continued work towards a goal builds a stronger community for us and those around us.

Here are five ways you can get involved and have a lasting effect:

  • Become an advocate – Is there an issue you’re especially passionate about? Become an advocate for change! You can write letters, send emails, sign a petition or get involved with local groups to put your passion to work in your town and state. You’ll meet new people with similar interests and learn more about the world.
  • Volunteer your time – Our time is one of the most valuable resources we have, so why not donate a little bit of that to a good cause? Find a charity or organization that is filling a need in your community and spend some time giving back. Thousands of organizations are looking for volunteers every day and it won’t cost you a dime!
  • Mentor – If you’re in a position to lend your life experience to someone else, consider becoming a mentor. This is another time investment, but one that can be invaluable for you and your mentee.
  • Listen to others – Sometimes we just need an ear to listen to what’s going on in our lives. Be that ear for someone else! Call up a friend, relative or neighbor to ask how they are and what’s going on in their lives. This fosters a closer relationship between you and can make someone’s day knowing you care.
  • Connect with your neighbors – This one takes almost no effort. Take a moment to slow down and say hello to a neighbor. Ask the mother next door how her kids are. Find out if the elderly man down the street needs any help. Or just shoot the breeze with your neighbor as he works in his garden. Great and rewarding friendships can start with a simple greeting.

Whether you have a few hours a week to donate your time or a few minutes for a good conversation, you can have a positive effect on the community around you!

Read more about building stronger communities.