Most of you will know that this week we celebrated “You Belong”. You Belong Week is the brainchild of Colleen Crase and the GCC Student Voice with the aim to ensure everyone feels like they belong. You Belong embodies the values of Harmony Week (typically a week later in the calendar) and Anti-Bullying Day on Friday but surpasses these nationally recognised events with its goal and positive values.
In her article last week Colleen wrote, “YOU BELONG. Two little words that change a child’s world. A sense of belonging is a long-established cornerstone of wellbeing, happiness and satisfaction. It provides a sense of purpose and meaning. For students, a sense of belonging means they feel a sense of acceptance, respect and support. It means they have safety and security in who they are and where they fit. While the world reels from war, division, hurt and fear, feeling a sense of belonging is essential.”
You Belong Week began with staff welcoming all the students to school Monday morning. The little ones loved the attention and the older ones pretended to be embarrassed but I think they secretly loved being welcomed so warmly. GCC families can see more photos on Pixevety here.
GCC’s Student Voice came up with a fun range of activities for the rest of the week including a teacher versus student footy game and sausage sizzle, Middle School Madness day, ice creams, Thankful Thursday, and fun music and photos on Friday. Secondary students and staff wore orange on Tuesday and Primary students had their turn on Friday to combine it with Anti-bullying Day. GCC families can see photos of our Thankful wall on Pixevety here.
A sense of belonging is so important that nearly every aspect of our lives revolves around it. Families, sports clubs, social clubs, churches, friendship groups all revolve around our need to feel like we belong. It is a good and healthy thing to feel this. We begin life with the most crucial need to belong to a parent or caregiver and outcomes can be catastrophic for babies who don’t experience this closeness at a young age. A sense of belonging is critical to our mental well-being.
In an article by Angela Theisen in the Mayo Clinic Health System she says, “Depression, anxiety and suicide are common mental health conditions associated with lacking a sense of belonging. These conditions can lead to social behaviors that interfere with a person’s ability to connect to others, creating a cycle of events that further weakens a sense of belonging.”
However, it is not all ‘doom and gloom’. There is a lot you can do to boost your own sense of belonging and the truly great thing about this is that it will, in turn, boost others’ sense of belonging. If you or your child have a sense of not belonging, here are three things you can do now that will help:
1. Do something.
Dwelling on and wallowing in feelings of not belonging is not helpful to you or those around you. Recognise the feeling and start thinking of ways to change the feeling. Is there a club you could join or a favourite sport to resurrect? Is it time to organise a family get together or a night out with friends? Even online group chats with old school friends can boost that sense of belonging. In the beginning, it may feel like a huge effort but after a while, it will become second nature to participate in activities with others more often. You will be surprised at how much you suddenly feel like you belong.
2. Go to church.
I know this could be included in the first point as something to do but it is such a powerful way to help you feel like you belong that it deserves its own point. Even non-religious organisations and studies acknowledge the mental health benefits of going to church. An article by WebMD states, “A new survey of nearly 37,000 men and women shows that people who regularly attend church, synagogue, or other religious services are less likely to suffer from depression and other psychiatric illnesses than those who don’t. The higher the worship frequency, the lower the odds of depression, mania, and panic disorders,” says researcher Marilyn Baetz, MD, of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.” People reported having a greater sense of meaning and belonging if they went to church on a regular basis. People are always glad to see and welcome you at church. You will be valued and feel like you belong.
3. Think of others first.
When you feel like you don’t belong, have you ever used the opportunity to look around and see if anyone else felt the same way? Probably not because these strong feelings can be overwhelming and isolating. However, most people will feel like they don’t belong during different times during their life. An article in US News reported that about 60 percent of young people between the ages of 18-22 feel left out or isolated; like they don’t belong. “Gen Zers, ages 18-22, scored a loneliness rate of 48.3 out of 80, making them the loneliest generation. Millennials, ages 23-37, come in second with a loneliness score of 45.3. The Greatest Generation, ages 72 and older, are the least lonely, with a score of 38.6.” It was wonderful to learn that our oldest generation is the most likely to feel like they belong but disturbing to read of the highest rate is in our teenagers and young adults.
A new study found that the feeling of not belonging and loneliness is now being touted as a bigger public health threat than obesity! The good news is that, for most people, combatting loneliness and a feeling of not belonging is hopefully easier than going on a diet!
The greatest sense of belonging comes when you know that you belong to God. People may often let us down, unknowing of the hurt and feelings of isolation they may be inflicting but God never lets us down. God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us, so we could belong to Him.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16
You Belong Week at GCC was a fantastic way to reinforce the fact that our students, families and staff truly do belong.
Mike Curtis, Principal