Belonging in a World of Loneliness

Hello belonging Human In Progress. Belonging and loneliness has been on my mind again lately with the way the world has been these past years, although alarms reverberated with concern for most of us even before then. There has been research on how loneliness and social isolation are linked to serious health conditions according to the CDC. The need for social support is a part of our overall wellness. Having a sense of purpose can make it easier to cope with loneliness. While loneliness can still be difficult to experience, having a clear direction and meaningful goals in life can provide a sense of fulfillment and reduce the negative impact of loneliness on our well-being.

I read in the past that the UK had appointed a Minister of Loneliness, and more recently Japan joined the efforts. The appointment of government officials, such as Ministers of Loneliness, spotlights the growing need for increased support and resources to address a mounting public health crisis. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May referred to this issue as a “sad reality of modern life” back in 2018.

I’m in a group where we discuss weekly for five weeks on the effects of loneliness and the importance of belonging. For me, I’m trying to reach out and belong to a cause that matters to me because I think it affects most of us. Most of our group recently viewed a video hosted by the Library of Congress featuring Geoffrey Cohen, Professor of Organizational Studies in Education and Business at Stanford who shared that “belonging is not a trait; it’s a state” from his book Belonging: Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divide. I will share some of the standout gems. I learned that we can create conditions where belonging can happen such as expressing humility, having civil conversations where each person is empathetic, engaging in deep listening, and together turning over and over deeper exchanges.

It’s common for many people to feel like they don’t belong in certain situations or environments, and it’s important to recognize that this feeling is mutually shared. At the same time, it’s also possible to be the one who helps someone else feel more welcomed and another to alter or shift the preconceived opinions or attitudes towards a person or group in a subtle way. There are particularly delightful and compelling examples provided in the video.

As Dr. Cohen mentioned, there are strategies and approaches that can help individuals who feel like they don’t belong, such as reaching out and leveraging storytelling. It’s important to recognize that we all have biases, and that acknowledging and being aware of the many biases is a critical step towards creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

One example of how biases can be addressed is by having employers write what Dr Cohen refers to as commitment to criteria that helps bypass biases (ageism, gender discrimination to name a couple) during a job interview. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of confirmation bias, which is the tendency to look for data that supports our preconceived thoughts and beliefs. By being aware of this bias among others, we can work to overcome it and seek out more fair, impartial, and unbiased judgments or decisions without being influenced by personal opinions, feelings, or biases.

The program video featured many relatable stories worth checking out, and one standout point is that we all experience pain at some point in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. This is something that we all share in different ways. Dr. Cohen provided some helpful strategies for building up our discourse as a skill set, including using phrases such as “I think”, approaching with humility, and for us to take pauses throughout the day to reconnect with our core values and gratitude, and recognizing that others may be dealing with circumstances that aren’t immediately apparent. It is important to strive for true objectivity and avoid biases in our discourse, in order to promote fair, impartial, and respectful conversations that foster understanding and inclusivity.

As we move forward, we’re calling in to approach conversations and interactions with others in a way that Dr. Cohen imparts to us “we can put others into place or invite them into the space.” By choosing the latter, we can help create a sense of belonging and foster more meaningful connections with others.

Bienvenida/o, Bienvenue/o, Svaagat, Huānyíng, Welcome to another step towards self-actualized Human In Progress.


Kennedy, M. (2018, January 17). U.K. Now Has a Minister for Loneliness. NPR.

Library of Congress (2022, October 19) Geoffrey Cohen on Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Dividesy on Career, Life, and Leadership [Video]. YouTube.


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