It’s one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior: the need to belong. Also known as belongingness, it is a natural instinct we are born with rather than a taught behaviour. We need to belong because we also need to feel accepted, to see that people are paying attention to us, respecting us, appreciating us. This also explains why rejection is so painful, often comparable to physical pain.
Not belonging literally has negative impact on us us as studies have shown that people who are lonely have poorer health. The more social support around you, the less likely you are to fall ill or experience depression.
We belong to a series of concentric circles. We belong to our blood family, to the family we build with the partner we choose, to the groups we decide to join, and to our work team. Below, we take a look at key rituals to implement to connect, whether for yourself or the teenagers in your family.
How to incorporate belonging rituals and connection:
Belongingness implies strong, nurtured relationships. One of its downsides is that we might develop a tendency to stick with unhealthy, even toxic relationships rather than end up alone. For this reason, developing rituals that will help us maintain healthy links is vital.
Happiness is key to belonging: not just the happiness we receive because we are part of a group, but the happiness we share. Begin by setting a ritual of telling people who matter to you why they do on a regular basis: on important dates like a birthday but also on a colleague’s work anniversary or after your child has had a hard day.
As much as we need belonging, it isn’t something that just happens. Like all relationships, creating those connections takes work. This can mean taking the time to research groups you would like to integrate into based on your hobbies, work interests, or religion. Perhaps this means it’s taking an organizing role to make sure that the people you feel you belong with get together regularly.
Belonging for teenagers
The craving to belong is particularly strong among teenagers, who need it in order to break away from the home nest where they grew up. Psychiatrist and teenage development expert Dr Dan Siegel explains that “adolescents banded together to find safety in numbers as they moved out into the world, a world that was unfamiliar, uncertain, and unsafe”.
Nowadays, teens do this in many ways: joining a sports team, adopting the codes of a specific friendship group, or because it’s 2019, through social media. Instagram and Snapchat, the most popular platforms with teenagers, mirror their need for belongingness and validation. The more groups they belong to, the happier they are as even if things go awry in one because they have access to alternative support.
At Strength in Motion, our integrated approach to wellness and mental health understands the importance of belongingness. Through our movement classes and other workshops, you can meet groups of like-minded people going through similar experiences, while our therapy can support you if you are struggling to establish a connection.