Positive Connections: The Importance of Belongingness in a Busy World
As humans, we have a want and a need to be close to others. We are social beings and want to build meaningful connections with the people in our lives, such as our family, friends, colleagues and maybe even strangers we meet for the first time. Having a sense of belongingness is a very important piece of our lives that can affect our mental health and overall health. A sense of belongingness can be defined as “the experience of personal involvement in a system or environment so that person feels themselves to be an integral part of that system or environment” (Hagerty, Lynch-Sauer, Patusky, Bouwsema, Collier, 1992). Research has explored the importance of belongingness in human lives, so let’s take a look at the psychological health benefits that have been demonstrated.
The Science Behind Belongingness
You may think of the sense of belongingness as more of a desire rather than a need, but you may be surprised to hear of the importance of feeling connected with others. As stated above, belongingness includes a sense of feeling that you’re an important part of a system or environment. When someone feels that they are an important part of a community, they’re more likely to have a higher self-esteem (Lee and Robbins, 1998). Researchers have also studied the health effects and psychological health effects of connectedness. For example, Hagerty, Williams, Coyne and Early (1996) studied the relationship between a sense of belonging, and psychological/social functioning in men and women. The results of the study showed that the more connected an individual felt, the more likely they were to engage in community activities, and were less likely to experience mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, as well as loneliness and suicidality. Other researchers explored belongingness as a form of protective factor in adolescent acting out behaviours (Resnick, Harris, and Blum, 1993). This study demonstrated that youth who had a sense of connectedness to family and school were less likely to display acting our behaviours or high risk behaviours. This research also noted that a sense of spirituality was a protective factor for these behaviours (Resnick, Harris, and Blum, 1993). Both studies demonstrate that a sense of belongingness can be protective in psychological well-being across the lifespan, indicating the importance of developing these types of bonds at a young age.
You may be feeling that you have a lot of positive connections in your life and that you feel you belong to a family, group, or workplace. However, if you’re feeling that maybe you haven’t been connecting with others as much as you’d like, we’ve put together some ideas for you on how to increase your sense of connectedness with others:
Review your current social supports– You may feel that you belong to a variety of social circles, clubs, work groups, and family circles but that you still may feel like you’re lacking that true connection. It may be helpful to review the groups that you’re a part of, and process what type of connection you have with each group. Remind yourself what drew you to the group in the first place, and if this is still serving a positive function for you.
Take an active role in your sense of belonging – If you’ve noticed that you may be drifting apart from some of your social connections – let’s face it – life gets very busy with responsibilities, and sometimes it can be hard to keep up with commitments or find time to really connect. If this sounds familiar, try placing an active focus on reintegrating with the groups that have been beneficial for you. If you’ve noticed you haven’t talked to your best friend as much as you’d like, try arranging a date to meet up to reconnect. If you’re a part of a spiritual group and haven’t been able to find the time to go to your local meetings or church, try rearranging your schedule to make sure you can make it out to the next gathering!
Try something new! – If you’ve followed the first two steps and still feel that something’s missing – why not learn more about local groups and communities within your area? Think about your interests, and how you may be able to connect them with a social group. For example, if you love running, how about trying a local running group where you can exercise and connect on a social level with others? If you love art, why not join a local art group where you can express your creativity and bond with others? If you love reading, how about considering a local book club where you can share your perspectives/experiences while enjoying the company of others?
We wanted to take this time to thank you for being a part of our Ease community! We hope that you feel a sense of belonging from reading our weekly blogs and knowing that you have similar interests as others when it comes to easing your stress levels, and focusing on taking care of yourself! Remember “when you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible”– Brene Brown.
Live with ease,
Carolyn and Steph
Hagerty, B., Lynch-Sauer, J., Patusky, K., Bouwsema, M., Collier, P. (1992). Sense of belonging. A vital mental health concept. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 6 (3), 172-177.
Lee, R. M., Robbins, S. B. (1998). The relationship between social connectedness and anxiety, self-esteem, and social identity. Journal of Counselling Psychology. 45 (3), 338-345.
Hagerty, B. M., Williams, R. A., Coyne J. C., and Early M. R. (1996). Sense of belonging and indicators of social and psychological functioning. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 10 (4), 235-244.
Resnick, M. D., Harris, L. J., Blum, R. W. (1993). The impact of caring and connectedness on adolescent health and well-being. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 29, S3-S9.