☀️Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers🌧️
Feeling well includes feeling like you belong
Connecting with other people and your community doesn’t just feel good, it’s good for your mental health.
Especially after the long periods of increased social isolation brought on by the pandemic, almost everyone can relate to how this makes us feel—well, lonely. The good news is that there is a cure for loneliness, and it can start with even one relationship or social connection.
At its core, belonging is a sense of connectedness, to family, community, and the world around us. What this looks like in daily life is the love, kindness and respect we feel from others, and after the past two years we’ve had, we could all use a little more love, kindness and respect.
We all need to feel like we belong and that others care about our well-being, and social support is exactly that: the belonging and care we receive from other people.
Our social support network can include many different groups of people, including friends, family members, teammates, co-workers, neighbor’s or even professionals like your doctor, your mail carrier, or the person you get coffee from.
When you feel like you belong, you feel like a valued and equal member of the community, and that feels good. Plus, a person is less likely to experience anxiety, depression, or problems with substance use if they have friends and healthy relationships, feel they are a part of a community and can meet their basic day-to-day needs.
That way, if they’re going through a tough time, they also have a support system to lean on. So, now that you know how important social inclusion is, how can you go about building your own sense of belonging? Here are a few tips:
- Focus on what you have in common – some people have a few strong personal connections, and some people thrive when they are connected to larger groups like those on Twitter or their broader cultural or religious community. It’s normal for people to feel comfortable in groups where they have something in common, whether it’s a sense of style or career goals. You may feel like it’s easier to relate to someone who is similar to you, and this gives you a sense of group membership.
- Express your needs – be clear with the people in your life about the kind of help you need, whether it’s someone to talk to or help with a problem. Tell people what you need—they may be able to offer better help when they know what you’re looking for.
- Make a contribution – even if you’ve been hiding away during COVID, it’s never too late to take care of the important relationships you already have. To build a connection, you need to contribute to relationships, too. Offer support to others in your life, whether that’s chatting with your neighbours or calling an old friend on their birthday.
- Meet new people – our routines are upside-down right now, so try to make opportunities to meet new people. Join social activities, take an in-person or online course, volunteer, or get involved in an organization. You can also ask friends to introduce you to other people.
- Give it time – give relationships time. It takes a bit of work to build them. You won’t be friends with everyone you meet, and when you do make a new friend, it will take time to strengthen your relationship. Think of belonging as a process, not a one-time event, and you’ll get there
It’s also important to remember that contrary to what might be popular belief, good mental health isn’t about being happy all the time. In fact, lead researcher on the study, Emily Jenkins, a UBC professor who studies mental health and substance use, tells us that good mental health is about having “appropriate emotional and behavioral responses to stressors and life events,” Dr. Jenkins says it is important to acknowledge and process emotions, not to hide them. “Sharing our very normal feelings of sadness, fear and worry is particularly important during this unusual time of stress, uncertainty and loss.”
So while emotions are running high at the start of a new year “name it, don’t numb it.” That saying was created by CMHA for Mental Health Week. Mental health week offers a chance to put our feelings front and center.
in the interest of our mental health. That’s because claiming how we feel not only makes sadness, anger and worry less intense, it can also make us feel better. And it can make it easier to manage our emotions, and easier to connect emotionally with others.
There’s brain science behind this too. Research shows that putting your negative emotions into words disrupts and reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that drives responses to stress and fear. Having a specific label for a feeling increases activity in the prefrontal and temporal regions of the brain. The act of naming our emotions can actually help us feel calmer and help us understand what we’re going through.
However, it is important to recognize when difficult feelings are too much. If intense worry, anxiety, or despair are disrupting your life or your relationships, or you are relying on substances to cope, it’s important to seek help.
Next Mental Health Week, people across Canada will get #GetReal by naming—not numbing—how they feel.
To get involved in Mental Health Week, you can:
- Learn more about mental health and emotions at mentalhealthweek.ca
- Share your support on social media by downloading a toolkit and using hashtags #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek
- Donate to support CMHA mental health programs and services at cmha.ca/donate
- Connect. If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact your local CMHA or visit the Government of Canada’s Wellness Together portal. If you are in crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free in Canada (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec) or dial 911.
Mental Health Week is May 2-8. Visit mentalhealthweek.ca. #GetReal about how you feel. “Name it, don’t numb it.”
Remember you don’t have to wait for specific events like Mental Health Week to reach out to others or share how you’re doing. It’s important to recognize that you aren’t alone and there are resources available for everyone.