Happiness is a broad concept to define. Many elements contribute to a sense of happiness. One of those elements, actually a big part can be contributed to our ability to connect with others, to have meaningful relationships, and to feel a sense of community. Time and again—across decades of research—people who say they’re happy have strong connections with their community. Community being friends, family, social connections, colleagues, and every other relationship in between. Community is therefore a key ingredient for happiness. Research reported by The Harvard Gazette found “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”

BMC Psychiatry reports on a qualitative meta-synthesis of the literature to date that depression often leads to loneliness. From my experience as a clinical psychologist in private practice treating depression, I often witness how loneliness and isolation again precipitate depression. A community or relationship adds meaning and purpose to your life.

Does that mean in order to feel happy you have to be around other people all the time? Definitely not! There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness can be measured by an individual’s level of satisfaction with their connectedness or perceived social isolation. We are as unique as our fingerprints. Therefore, your level of connectedness will differ from the next person. Some people like to be around others most of the time, where some people prefer to spend small amounts of time with others and the rest in solitude. There is no rule book. You will know what works best for you.

We are all wired for connection. You might feel lost in knowing where to start. There are different things that connect people. Shared experiences connect people. Vulnerability connects people. Hobbies connect people. This might be a great place to start. Think of the communities for gamers, sportfans, dancers, or animal lovers. If you’re an expat, for example, there are likely expat communities to join. In other words, find a social group you can be part of. Alternatively, you can use the Meetup app as a place to start this journey – a resource if you don’t know where to start connecting to people with similar interests, passions, and hobbies as you.

Hey Happy wants to encourage you to find your community, your tribe and to create a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. When you feel connected, your mood will elevate once oxytocin gets released so get started 🙂

written by Derika de Villiers, clinical psychologist.