The importance of belonging

Writing the story of your experiences may help you cope with stress, researchers say.

Story highlights

  • Social belonging is a fundamental human need
  • Research: One instance of exclusion can undermine well-being, IQ test performance
  • Study enlists subjects as experts to help "others" going through difficulty
You are not alone.
You belong.
And it gets better.
These are a few of a handful of powerful messages that an elegantly designed "belonging intervention" by social psychologist and Stanford assistant professor Gregory Walton conveys to study participants who are going through a difficult period.
In a series of ongoing studies, first published in 2007 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the belonging intervention uses a technique known as "attributional retraining" to help people shift blame for negative events from "It's just me" to "I'm not alone, and there are others going through it."
The goal is to convey to the subjects that when bad things happen, it doesn't mean they don't belong in general.
Why is this important?
"We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life." So began a stunning meditation by Marina Keegan, a 22-year-old Yale graduate who died in a tragic car accident May 26.
What is the opposite of loneliness? Is it belonging?
Because as humans, we need to belong. To one another, to our friends and families, to our culture and country, to our world.
Belonging is primal, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being.
Belonging is a psychological lever that has broad consequences, writes Walton. Our interests, motivation, healt