Belonging is being part of a collective "we". It's about how much we believe we "fit" in a place or group, but it's also about how much that place or group welcomes and includes us.
Connections and engagement are two important elements of belonging. Connections are our relationships with others and the strength of those relationships. Engagement, on the other hand, is our commitment to community and the willingness to take action or participate in activities that make our communities better.
We know that people who feel they belong to a community are more likely to take action with others for the common good. So how can we strengthen belonging to each other and our communities? Well, it's really a two-way street:
Communities need to send signals of acceptance and inclusion; and individuals need to cultivate connection with other people and engagement in the community.
Belonging is not just a feeling, it's a powerful catalyst for healthier communities and a more cohesive, inclusive Canada.
When we feel a strong sense of belonging and connection to people around us:
* We are healthier: Belonging to social groups and networks is as important to our health as diet and exercise. People with strong support networks tend to have a lower prevalence of mental illness and better overall physical health.
* Sustained employment improves: Extensive support networks provide better opportunities for sustained and secure employment.
* Children learn better: Belonging is a key element in the curriculum for early childhood education across Canada.
* Life has more purpose: When people have a stronger sense of belonging, they perceive life to be more meaningful.
When communities are made up of people who feel they belong and trust each other:
* Neighbourhoods are safer: As connectedness among people in communities increases, so does neighbourhood safety and a sense of community pride.
* Contributions of time and money increase: People who feel they belong are more likely to volunteer, donate to the community, and be involved in community governance.
* Culture and identity flourish: Aboriginal communities that have maintained more elements of their culture and a greater level of self-governance feel more Individual and community continuity and Identity.
* Communities bounce back after emergencies: Communities in which there are many social connections are more resilient during emergency events.
When people feel a strong sense of belonging to their country:
* Social inclusion improves: Belonging is a common indicator of how well someone has integrated into society, and helps build social...