During the holidays, we often gather with friends and family to celebrate the season. But for many, this time of year highlights a feeling of isolation.
When it feels like everyone else is attending events, sharing meals and exchanging gifts with loved ones, while you’re not involved or invited, it can be challenging to get into the holiday spirit. Modern culture—with its rise in individualism, fewer marriages, less community involvement and an increase in technology usage—has contributed to a decline in strong, meaningful connections.
Whether you’re personally feeling that sense of isolation or you know someone who may be experiencing it, we can tap into the power of belonging and connection to combat these difficult circumstances.
The benefits of belonging and connection are far-reaching. Connecting with others fulfills one of our most basic human needs and can even lead to a longer life expectancy, a stronger immune system and lower rates of depression and anxiety. When we feel connected, we gain comfort in knowing we’re not alone. We share common values, interests and experiences, as well as recognize one another’s unique strengths and backgrounds. We can receive (and give!) help and support when needed. And we can grow as a person as we learn about ourselves through others and feel accepted for who we are.
So how do we actively build more connection and belonging in our lives and the lives of others?
Think about those people who truly make you feel like you belong. The words, actions and body language they use are powerful. Simple steps, like using eye contact, smiling, opening your hands and body stance, and saying “I’m glad you’re here” help build a sense of belonging. By demonstrating these qualities yourself, you have the power to make others feel welcome and comfortable.
True, deep connection goes beyond the surface. While any relationship may start at that surface level, to really feel connected, we have to go deeper. So share who you are—yes, it may feel scary! Celebrate your successes, communicate your challenges, and listen to others do the same. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Being your true, authentic self gives others the opportunity to make space for you—the real you. That unconditional acceptance is what belonging is all about.
Put Yourself Out There
Whether you know of someone in need or are feeling isolated yourself, reach out. It can be difficult (it requires getting vulnerable!) but be brave. Take that first step. Put yourself out there and extend an invitation. You never know—your outreach may be just what someone else is hoping for.
Gratitude is an essential element of connection. Be grateful for others. Start by acknowledging all the positive aspects they bring to your life. Even within rocky relationships, gratitude can help smooth past hurts, transforming conflict into connection.
Establishing a relationship or friendship takes time. It involves regular opportunities for connection, whether that’s in person, on the phone, over email, or any combination of channels. That time allows for a deeper understanding of one another and creates shared experiences. Reliability is key—these days, it’s all too easy to cancel plans last minute or reschedule for another time. But when you commit to making those connections and actually follow through, that’s when a sense of belonging grows.
This holiday season, we have the opportunity to foster belonging and connection—in our own lives and for others. By offering our support, demonstrating kindness, and showing gratitude for others—for who they are, just as they are—we build those connections, in turn creating a deeper joy and meaning.
PUTTING INSIGHTS INTO ACTION
Take a moment to reflect on the questions below and commit to taking ONE step today to make that happen.
- Who in your life could use extra support and connection in the coming months?
- Is there a relationship you’d like to repair or someone you’d like to reconnect with?
- What is one step you can take this week to help foster belonging in your life or for someone in need?
Be that spark of connection. Draw on vulnerability and gratitude, convey an open, welcoming spirit, and foster familiarity. In time, the power of belonging and connection will bring so much positivity to you and others in your life.