B is for Belong

Did you know that simply belonging may protect you as you age? According to multiple studies, including an 80+ year Harvard study, close relationships keep people happy throughout their lives, and this helps delay mental and physical decline. In fact, a sense of belonging is a better predictor of a long, happy life than social class, IQ, or even genes! (Waldinger et al., 2015)

What is Belonging?

Belonging is a fundamental human need – connecting to something larger than yourself. It can be a connection to family, friends, communities, cultures, and even nature. Feeling a sense of belonging makes you feel accepted and valued, leading to greater physical and mental well-being.

The Human Optimization Project (HOP) understands the importance of building relationships and finding a sense of community in your life, and that’s why it’s included in the first principle of “BEAMSSSS”. (HOP)

At its core, belonging is a state of being. It’s not something that can be achieved through external means. Rather, it’s an internal experience that is cultivated through intentional effort. It’s a feeling of being at home and part of something meaningful and worthwhile. It’s a feeling of security, comfort, and acceptance. But belonging isn’t just about feeling accepted and valued. It’s also about feeling like you have a purpose in life. It’s about feeling connected to something bigger than yourself and knowing that your life is meaningful and has value. (Walton & Cohen, 2011)

How Belonging Impacts Health and Longevity:

Studies have shown that a sense of belonging is closely linked to good health. People who feel a strong sense of belonging are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and are more likely to live longer and healthier lives. (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015)

One study found that older adults who felt a sense of belonging were two-thirds less likely to die over the course of the study than those who didn’t. (Shankar et al., 2011) Another study found that having strong social connections can help us live up to seven years longer. (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010)

These findings suggest that a sense of belonging can be a powerful tool for increasing your health span (the length of time you remain healthy) and improving your overall quality of life. So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, start building those close relationships and finding your sense of belonging today!

What can you do to cultivate belonging? 

Before trying the Action Steps and “Lightning Strikes” recommended by HOP, you may have felt lonely or disconnected from others. You may have also noticed that a lack of social connections affected your overall well-being and happiness.  But it’s time to change all of that!

By committing to HOP’s principles and taking action, you can start to make real changes in your social connections and relationships. Below you’ll find three “Action Steps” to move you ever closer to belonging.  You can do these easy things today to put you on the right path.  Next, you’ll find our three “Lightning Strikes” – like Action Steps on steroids – fun ideas that require a little more time or effort but will take your Belonging game up several notches!

Action steps:  

  1. Make a list of your five favorite people, then add what you can do to spend more quality time with each.
  2. Call, text, or send a letter to someone who means a lot to you – remind them how you met and why they are so important in your life.
  3. Host a potluck or game night with friends and family, and make it a regular occurrence.

Lightning strikes: 

  1. Attend a meetup or join a sports team that aligns with your interests and make it a goal to meet at least one new person each session.
  2. Volunteer for a cause you care about – get involved in local organizations or events that unite people. 
  3. Join the HOP Community!  We have an active HOP Discord channel and would love you to join us as we talk about optimization –  HOP box ingredients, longevity tips/tools, personal goals, what’s working and what’s not, and upcoming community events. 

Living a long and healthy life is possible, but it takes effort. Belonging is a powerful tool that can help you achieve this goal. Community is key and you get out what you put in, so dust off those socializing pants and get out there!  Aging gratefully means taking a proactive approach to cultivate a sense of belonging so you can experience greater levels of happiness and fulfillment and live a longer, healthier life.

To get more information and support on achieving these goals go to Hopbox.life and join the community.  We’re active on Discord as well as Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Youtube!

By Amy Killen, MD


Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7), e1000316.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227-237.

Human Optimization Project (HOP). Retrieved from https://humanoptimizationproject.com/beamssss/

Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Demakakos, P., Hamer, M., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Social isolation and loneliness: Prospective associations with functional status in older adults. Health psychology, 30(6), 677.

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