The need to belong and stay connected to others is as important to staying well as diet and exercise
vAs social beings, we all need to feel that we belong. Inclusion in a community helps nurture feelings of safety and security, but we also learn a lot from groups. Little ones learn values from people around them plus norms of how to behave and fit in. They gain the knowledge they need to succeed in the group through this ‘socialisation’ and in human development, healthy socialisation is a strong predictor of future health and happiness.
Of course, things don’t always go to plan. Peer pressure can lead youngsters to engage in unhealthy behaviours in order to fit in. It’s all driven by the ‘them and us’ response - a variation on the ‘fight-or-flight’ stress reaction - which causes groups to bond together against outsiders.
WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER
So, what can parents do to influence the behaviours and values their children adopt? Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, recommends that parents work together to agree how they will shape their children’s values and aspirations collectively, in tune with the need for community.
LONELINESS – NATURE’S WARNING SYSTEM
Research shows that social isolation and an unmet need for community, drives up the risk of people experiencing depression or anxiety. But how do we know when we’re at risk?
Feelings of loneliness are nature’s way of telling us that a need is unmet, whether for community, emotional connection or the giving and receiving of attention. All too often, however, we don’t act until our emotional wellbeing is affected. For example, inflammation, recently identified as a symptom which often accompanies depression, can cause us to feel the need to retreat into a safe place where we can recover. But by retreating, we risk isolating ourselves further when connecting up to others might be the best way to help us recover from physical and mental ill health. www.quayplace.co.uk