“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis
but rather the feeling of not belonging.”
~ Mother Teresa
Yellow We All Belong Bee Pun Poster.png

For humans, being part of a group and feeling accepted and valued is a deep-seated need. This is due to our evolution as social beings, where survival depended on cooperation and mutual support within groups[1].

The sense of belonging has significant implications for our mental health. Research has shown that when people feel they belong, they have higher self-esteem, greater well-being, and lower rates of depression[2]. On the other hand, feelings of loneliness and social isolation can lead to a higher risk of diseases like depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems like cardiovascular disease[3].

A meta-analysis by Leary and colleagues suggests that individuals who experience rejection, exclusion, or isolation perceive these as psychologically painful because they threaten the need to belong[4]. The frequent or prolonged absence of belonging can lead to negative effects on mental health, often associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety[5].

It is also important to recognize that belonging does not necessarily mean conforming to social norms or fitting into a specific group. It is possible to find a sense of belonging in unconventional or non-traditional communities. For example, individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community may find a sense of belonging in queer-friendly spaces, even if they do not conform to traditional gender roles or expectations. Similarly, individuals with unconventional hobbies or interests may find a sense of belonging in niche communities that share their passions.

In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, the value of genuine social interaction can often be overlooked. We tend to focus on grand gestures, extravagant events, or elaborate plans to connect with others. However, it's essential to recognize that socializing doesn't always require big actions. Small online interactions, like comments, likes, and emojis, can positively increase a sense of belonging by fostering connections and creating a supportive community. They remind individuals that they are seen, valued, and encourage active participation, building a digital sanctuary where everyone feels they belong.

In fact, the little ways we engage with people can have a profound impact on our well-being and create stronger, more meaningful connections. Let's explore the power of socializing in little ways and how these simple interactions can make a big difference in our lives.

1. Smile and Greet: One of the smallest yet most impactful ways to connect with others is through a simple smile and greeting. Whether it's with a colleague, a neighbor, or a stranger passing by, offering a warm smile and a friendly "hello" can brighten someone's day and create a sense of connection in a world that often feels impersonal.

2. Active Listening: Engaging in active listening is a subtle but potent form of socializing. When someone speaks, truly listen to what they are saying without interrupting or formulating responses in your mind. Show genuine interest in their words, and validate their feelings. Active listening fosters trust and helps others feel valued and understood.

3. Random Acts of Kindness: Performing random acts of kindness is a wonderful way to connect with others and create a ripple effect of positivity. Whether it's leaving a heartfelt note, offering assistance to someone in need, or surprising a friend with their favorite treat, these small gestures can leave a lasting impression and strengthen relationships.

4. Expressing Gratitude: Expressing gratitude is a powerful way to acknowledge the people around us. A simple "thank you" or a heartfelt note of appreciation can make others feel seen and valued. Gratitude strengthens social bonds and encourages a culture of kindness and support.

5. Engaging in Small Talk: While small talk may seem insignificant, it serves as an essential social lubricant. Engaging in light-hearted conversations about the weather, hobbies, or weekend plans can lead to more meaningful connections over time.

6. Celebrating Milestones: Acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishments and milestones of friends, family, or colleagues shows that you genuinely care about their well-being and progress. Sending a congratulatory message or taking a moment to acknowledge their achievements can foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

7. Sharing Laughter: Laughter is contagious and has the power to bring people together. Whether it's sharing a funny meme, a light-hearted joke, or reminiscing about a humorous experience, laughter helps create positive memories and strengthens social bonds.

8. Sending Personal Messages: In the age of instant messaging and social media, taking the time to send a personalized message can make a significant difference. Instead of sending a generic "happy birthday" on someone's timeline, consider sending a heartfelt message directly to them. Personal touches like these show that you genuinely care about the individual.

9. Being Present: When spending time with others, put away distractions like phones and give them your full attention. Being present in the moment and engaged in the conversation shows that you value the time spent together.

10. Offering Support: Sometimes, the littlest ways to socialize involve being there for someone during challenging times. Offering a listening ear, a comforting hug, or words of encouragement can provide immense support and strengthen the bond between individuals.

Socializing in little ways can have a significant impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. These small gestures are easy to incorporate into our daily interactions and can create a more compassionate and connected society. So, let's not underestimate the power of the little ways we engage with others. Whether it's a smile, an act of kindness, or being present for someone, these seemingly small actions can make a big difference in fostering meaningful relationships and promoting overall well-being.


[1]: Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

[2]: Lee, R. M., & Robbins, S. B. (1995). Measuring belongingness: The Social Connectedness and the Social Assurance scales. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42(2), 232–241. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.42.2.232

[3]: Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352

[4]: Leary, M. R., Twenge, J. M., & Quinlivan, E. (2006). Interpersonal rejection as a determinant of anger and aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 111–132. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr1002_2

[5]: Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., & Thisted, R. A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453–463. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0017216

[6]: McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23. https://doi.org/10.1002/1520-6629(198601)14:1

[7]: Sani, F. (2005). When subgroups secede: Extending and refining the social psychological model of schism in groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(8), 1074–1086. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167204274091

[8]: Spitzberg, B. H., & Cupach, W. R. (2011). Interpersonal communication competence. The Cambridge Handbook of Communication Competence, 189-211. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511979389.011

[9]: Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 629-651. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144154