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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

Your Sense of Home

Kakoivn1. Nha-cap-4-mai-thai. Wikimedia Commons public domain

To feel safe, secure, and at peace in our world, we need a sense of home. Research describes home as a refuge, a place where we feel safe and secure, where we find acceptance, comfort, and renewal.[1] According to Canadian educator Kim Samuel, "Our sense of home is essential to an experience of belonging."[2]


For many of us, "home" is where we grew up.  But for years, when people asked me, "Where are you from?" I didn't know what to say. I'd moved across the country and around the world with my Air Force father on his many assignments. By the time I graduated from high school, I'd attended ten different schools. All that moving made me more adaptable to change and aware of different cultures. But I also felt something was missing from my life. Research has shown that children of military families or diplomats who move frequently can feel a sense of rootlessness, anxiety, and insecurity. [3]


Research has shown that we all need a psychological home, a haven from the challenges of the outside world where we can find refuge, security, and comfort.[4] Czech poet, playwright, and political leader Vaclav Havel described our home as a multidimensional experience in which we're surrounded by concentric circles of connection from our families and close friends to our neighborhoods, towns, workplaces, countries, and the world in which we live. [5]


But many of us have lost our sense of home. Years ago, I counseled homeless women at a local shelter. These women were literally homeless. But many more of us are virtually homeless; we've lost our sense of belonging, the deep relationships we need with the people, places, and natural world around us.[6]


We lost many circles of connection in the Covid pandemic. My local drugstore closed, as did the coffee shop where I'd meet my friends for lunch. Our sense of home is also eroding because of changing corporate practices. Nearly every week I hear of tech companies laying off hundreds of employees. Deprived of their salaries and workplace connections, people's lives are disrupted. They're forced to seek new jobs, and many of them move away. In contrast, after a devastating fire at his factory in 1995, Aaron Feuerstein, the CEO of Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, made the national news by continuing to pay his employees' salaries and benefits for months while rebuilding the factory.


Our efforts may not be as dramatic as Aaron Feuerstein's but we can strengthen the sense of home for ourselves and our world. We can begin by pausing to mindfully appreciate the beauty in our own living space, neighborhood, and community. Taking small steps, we can cultivate a greater sense of refuge and comfort where we live, perhaps by hanging a favorite picture on the wall, putting a comfortable chair by the window, or curling up with a warm blanket.


We can cultivate a stronger sense of home in our communities by greeting our neighbors, colleagues, and the people we see each day, creating what psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, calls "micromoments of connectivity" that benefit both people, dramatically improving our emotional and physical health, raising our mood, relieving stress, and reducing inflammation. Over time, these small acts can spread in a positive ripple effect to create a stronger sense of home in our community.[vii]  We can also strengthen our sense of home by volunteering for causes we believe in and taking steps to protect our natural environment. And at the end of the day, we can look up at the sky to connect in awe with the universe of stars sparkling overhead.

Please join me in a brief meditation to connect with the sense of home.


What is one step you can take this week to cultivate a greater sense of home?


I wish you joy in the comfort of home.


[1] Després, C. (1991, Summer). The meaning of home: Literature review and directions for future research and theoretical development. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 8 (2), 96-115; Mallett, S. (2004). Understanding home: A critical review of the literature. The Sociological Review, 52, 62-89.

[2] Samuel, K. (2022). On Belonging: Finding Connection in an Age of Isolation. New York, NY: Abrams Press, p. 101.

[3] Morris, T., Manley, D., Northstone, K., & Sabel, C. E. (2017). How do moving and other major life events impact mental health? A longitudinal analysis of UK children. Health and Place, 46, 257-266; Taylor, S. (2022). Disconnected: The Roots of Human Cruelty and How Connection Can Heal the World. Alresford, UK: John Hunt Publishing.

[4] Sigmon, S., Whitcomb, S. R., Snyder, C. R. (2002). Psychological home. In A. T. Fisher, C. C. Sonn, & B. J. Fisher (Eds.). Psychological Sense of Community: Research, Applications, and Implications, pp. 25-41. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. 

[5] Havel, V. (1992). Summer Meditations. P. Wilson (Trans.). New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, pages 30-31;  See also Tucker, A. (1994). In search of home. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 11 (2), 181-187.

[6] Samuel, K. (2022). On Belonging: Finding Connection in an Age of Isolation. New York, NY: Abrams Press, p. 19.

[vii] Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.


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