The joke is that you would never want to belong to any club that would accept you as a member. Which, of course, would leave you out of every club, and that would be too bad. Because belonging is a critical human need, right up there with the need for food and shelter. That sense of belonging to a group greater than just you—community, friends, family—is a universal need. To feel a connection with other humans. To belong.

That feeling of belonging is critical to your health and happiness.

When you know you are not alone and can share your triumphs and your sorrows, you thrive. You are less likely to develop major health risks like depression, Type 2 Diabetes, arthritis, alcohol abuse, and even premature death. That is how important a sense of belonging is.

What does it mean to belong?

It doesn’t mean you have to be a member of a fancy country club. You simply need to have meaningful relationships with people who like and appreciate you. With people who share your values and participate in activities with you—shared friendship.

Why you may have to work at belonging.

Our world is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. You probably don’t live in a multigenerational household in which you grew up. You probably don’t have a network of family nearby to support you. You may not even know your neighbors or if you do, you may have nothing in common with them. And, if you live in the United States, you know how much individual independence is revered. So how do you develop a sense of belonging?

Social media is not necessarily the answer.

More and more people turn to social media to make connections. And while it may be fun, it’s difficult to get beyond the superficiality inherent in having online friends. There is no opportunity for spending quality time together to develop truly meaningful, personal relationships. You cannot interact enough to see body language. You cannot give or get a hug. So perhaps the time spent online is time spent away from developing a true sense of belonging.

Make an effort to connect and belong.

It seems so easy to become isolated in this era of online activity that it may take a little work to find your niche. Focus on similarities in the people around you. Suspend your judgment and try to be more accepting of others. Open your mind to try and understand why people think differently from you. Say yes to new opportunities and activities. Remember everyone has a story if you will only listen.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: