Awe, connection and belonging - the keys to happiness

Awe, connection and belonging - why are they the keys to happiness?


I think most especially when we go through difficult times, when we feel low or lost or both, also when we are grieving, we need, we seek, and we long for meaning. These are natural inclinations. The brain needs to know why.

And so below, here are some of my own personal observations and also those of some wise people whose wisdom has resonated with me. I hope that they also resonate with you.

Belonging and its benefits 

The feelings of belonging and connection do not just help raise our feelings of emotional well-being, but they are also beneficial for our physical health. They keep us in a ventral state of our vagal nerve where we can learn, focus, absorb and reason through and from a place of safety and comfort.

Feeling well thought of

This opens our ability to be compassionate, and when we show compassion to others, it allows them to reciprocate, and also in turn show compassion to others too... bets are that both the giver and the receiver will have a better day every time compassion is a beautiful experience.


There are so many types of love: love for your children if you are a parent, from your children (hopefully), for and from your pets, from friends and neighbours and community and of course, romantic love... and a love we have for things - our work and chosen interests, our pursuits, and even what we eat and drink, and where we are - in a city or the countryside or in your own country or another... These all play a part in how we interpret our sense of self and what influences our sense of well-being.

I think when something feels like it is taken away from you or lost, it then becomes not just important but actually necessary to question and to find out not only why, but what can help to regain your joy and your equilibrium. What, in fact, brings you back to homeostasis?


Within this awareness, as within all awareness, we feel the beginning of a “shift”, something changed that has the power to change in the most fundamental of ways. Both for bad and for good, but here we are exploring the good and the benefits.


Just touch and the power of it is so powerful. It has an enormous effect on the stabilisation of your vagal nerve, your immune system and your general health. When you have elevated vagal tone, it lowers cortisol (the stress hormone that stimulates our adrenals).

The power of the embrace

It is not just sexual. It is in fact pivotal when we are deprived of it, we suffer in so many ways without it.

During the pandemic, l was completely alone and devoid of touch and living in another country in my house. No family nearby either. My children, although adults, were here in England. When we were eventually allowed once again to interact, l booked a massage. It was the first time that anyone had touched me for such a long time. After it, I cried all the way home, not because it was a bad experience but because my need to survive and therefore keep distance had deprived me of something also essential to my humanness. I still think we have no idea how much the impact of the pandemic took its toll on global mental health. During that time, one good thing was and is that we were all reminded of the value, joy, and balm of nature. My garden became a haven, and my dogs gave me so much. 

In newborns and way before verbal communication, the soothing power of the mother’s touch is the panacea, the medicine of belonging and the safety of it. 

We, out of all the mammals, are born the most vulnerable and helpless. We rely on touch, connection and belonging - they are crucial to our very prospect of surviving, as well as anchoring us and eradicating our helplessness. As we grow eventually into adulthood, these innate prerequisites for our thriving do not matter less. We need them still and without them, in their absence, we long for them. 

That is why loneliness feels so crucifying. 

How then can we tell anyone, "l feel lonely?"

The prospect feels humiliating because just the statement in itself alongside the admission is and feels so vulnerable. To be seen as having nobody. It is so common though, far more than you think. It raises huge uncertainty, a lack of belonging. Here is where we struggle.

And so, this is what helps me, and what l hope will also help you.


A walk of awe, for example, connecting to things that are larger than self. Professor Dacher Keltner talks of this a lot in his book “Awe” in such a moving way, through knowledge and also through the self-disclosure of his own grief after losing his brother.

I walk my dogs, my precious, wonderful dogs, and when l do, l have found that if l go out early before the day feels begun, before people and all the rushing to work and to school, then there is a sense of newness. l pass trees and green hedges and notice them, l feel welcomed by the new day, now where spring is on the way, showing buds and new green small leaves. There is a wonder in this, an awe. There is a stillness in this being in nature that feels allowing, and belonging for me to be and to exist within it.

Other things that help me are:

  • New beginnings and also the great sense of continuity through seasons, most especially whilst there is so much global uncertainty.
  • Having a programme of things daily that are achievable. Through exercise, that improves our strength and flexibility through what not only is, but feels possible.
  • Having plans, talking to friends and loved ones.
  • Gardening is also a hugely joyous thing to do. Planting, watching things grow, unfurl and blossom.
  • Baking and cooking also have a wonderful feeling of safety and “home” to it too. It reaffirms how we have the possibility of being able to affect the outcome of something rather than be at the mercy of it. This has a knock-on effect of creating positive feelings emotionally.
  • Devotion. Discover what you are devoted to. This gives depth to our lives. When we know what we are devoted to, we hang on in there through the ups and downs. It extends and stretches us beyond self.

What is sacred to you?

It is about these things and your journey. Question your own narrative and your ideology.

What unites us, our commonality, what makes us feel connected, it does not either blur or extinguish our uniqueness or our individuality. It is not necessary to levy one against the other.

At the end of the day, it is about what resonates for each one of us that creates happiness. To an extent, l believe stillness plays a part in this. That which is felt and is without words.

As the Dali Lama says:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 

Try for a week to do or say - or both - one nice thing for someone. It has an extraordinary effect, you will see.

Engage with awe and the good things that you have and have been given, whatever they are, this is not about what is grand but about what is meaningful. 

It also has a knock-on effect, altruism is contagious.

This calms also our threat response, it encourages us.

So what is the hypothesis here?

  • compassion
  • touch
  • belonging
  • connection
  • nature
  • gratitude
  • kindness
  • awe
  • feeling the wonder 

These things are what give us happiness, deep happiness. Loneliness is what deprives us of so much of them - you don’t get to share, to belong, to connect with, to touch. Then especially nature, cooking, gardening and having pets is such a balm. Loneliness is not only something sobering to address at Christmas. Also if you are not in a romantic relationship, dating apps can help, but also sometimes do the opposite. I heard that we shop for romantic partners now in the same way we shop for stuff on Amazon by scrolling through - this is how we are shopping for people to potentially spend the rest of our lives with. 

Being ghosted or treated poorly can provide the antithesis and even accentuate loneliness by annihilating your hopes of ever finding true love. Happiness is also about being “seen, heard. known and understood”.

From time immemorial, all of our self-worth has been defined by others being around you by being with someone. Not about their depth, or by how good they are for you or by how much they love you... this is an observation from Jay Shetty which l feel is an extraordinary wisdom about how we are socialised and in that, conditioned. These things can rob us of our happiness if we don’t fall into what we are convinced we should have, and if we fall short, if we are alone, then somehow we feel so diminished that happiness is out of our reach.

It isn’t.

Profile happiness, with yourself and others.


Compassion opens the doors. So does self-compassion. For others, for self, both through it and with it we get to understand and to accept and feel part of humanity.

Remember also to be intentional about the company you keep. Better with those of your own emotional tribe.

In this, we are no longer alone.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.
07771 715072
First enquiry consultation free

Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Happiness coaching

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals