Do you have a sense of belonging?
Do you know where you fit?
Often I think where we belong is where we feel most comfortable. For me, it’s that gorgeously welcome feeling of my own home and even deeper, my creative arts studio and further into sanctuary, my own bedroom.
But what about outside our own homes? Do you have a sense of belonging at your workplace or place of study? Are there groups that you gather with where you feel a sense of belonging?
How does this impact your wellbeing?
What if you don’t feel as though you belong? What if there aren’t opportunities to belong?
What happens when we keep getting the idea that we simply don’t fit in? What happens then?
In order to cultivate personal, interpersonal and planetary wellbeing, (that’s health on all levels – physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and creative) it is imperative that we have a sense of belonging. Dr Daniel Siegel, interpersonal neurobiologist and (long time, personal favourite) author, writes extensively about this need to connect to each other, and for a sense of belonging for wellbeing.
He relays a story of sitting with a tribe in Namibia where poverty, famine, drought and disease are rife, yet the people beamed smiles, they laughed and seemed to possess a great deal of happiness. When he asked them why despite their obvious difficulties they seemed so happy, one villager replied via the translator, “because we belong”. To belong, it would seem, meets a need that perhaps surpasses even a hungry belly. This wonderful sense of connection to the whole, their community and to the place they called their home was their sustenance, their nourishment and the fuel they needed to be well…. to be happy.
When we feel a sense of belonging, we know we are at least to some degree accepted and valued for who we are. If others accept us and value us, then we must be ok. It’s wonderfully assuring stuff and when we are self assured and feeling quite secure and safe, we can move through life with purpose and confidence. Without a sense that we belong; if instead we feel rejected, outcast, not accepted and devalued, it’s extremely difficult to get motivated, to surge ahead and much easier to withdraw from the outside world altogether.
What happens in the brain when we don’t feel safe and securely attached is a kind of looping that goes on between the emotional and reactionary centres. In a nutshell, we get the feedback that we aren’t, or must not be ok because we don’t actually belong and our sympathetic nervous systems are literally triggered into action (fight or flight mode) because we feel alone, separate and unsupported – unsafe.
When this happens, we suffer a range of physiological responses: elevated levels of anxiety, the stress hormone cortisol floods our systems, our heart races, we are unable to think clearly, and so on. It’s much more difficult to be calm and make intelligent decisions because all our energies are primed and ready to protect ourselves from danger. What this all means is that on our own, life is so much harder. In a loving and supportive group such as a family or wider community, we can relax a bit and share the load. We can be less vigilant, less triggered. A sense of belonging goes a long way to mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing.
At MYSHA, the experience of being in and belonging to a loving and supportive group is one of the great benefits of this practice. It’s a truly awe-inspiring thing to witness a group of children or women connecting with each other and encouraging each other creatively, spiritually and emotionally. These relationships that we are building are integral in developing our shared sense of belonging which is so important in wellbeing.
This Friday at MYSHA, in both our groups for children and for women, we will mindfully explore through the arts, what it is to belong, how it feels and what it means to us. If you would like to be a part of this creative exploration and benefit from the wellbeing group experience, you are very warmly welcome!