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The Psychology Behind Instilling a Sense of ‘Home’

Home can be your childhood roots and the pizzeria around the corner. Home can be the house you grew up in and the familiar sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that are as familiar to you as the sun rising each day and setting each night. It can be the physical place you reside and the community it bestows. 

Home can be the conversations with loved ones at the dinner table about anything and everything. It can be talking with your friends over a cup of hot tea or coffee. It can be vacations we adored and memories we will always cherish. It can be places that become a part of us.

I think many of us have so many definitions of “home.” A sense of home can surely manifest in a multitude of ways, but ultimately, I tend to think that humans naturally crave a sense of belonging, somewhere, somehow.

I can recall a lesson from one of my psychology courses in college; a lesson about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (It’s been quite a while since I was in a lecture hall sitting in front of a projector, but I distinctly remember that there was a pyramid to demonstrate said hierarchy.) At the base of the pyramid, our physiological needs are expressed — food, water, shelter, rest. But as we ascend the triangle, our basic human needs take on a psychological component — humans need security and safety. Higher up on the pyramid are psychological needs — the need for love and belongingness, where we establish intimacy among friends and forge meaningful connections with one another. I think this is the part of his hierarchy that reaches a critical peak (at least in my opinion, but I’m surely biased because of the topic of this post). This is where our call for belonging, our sense of home, is highlighted.

Since our need for belonging is discussed among many in the psychology field, it’s interesting to take it way, way, back and read about its evolutionary roots.

“Our Need to Belong,” a researched blog post affiliated with Penn State, talks about this need and how it stems from an evolutionary cause. “According to researchers Baumeister & Leary (1995), this need to belong has its roots in evolution,” the article states. “In order for our ancestors to reproduce and survive it was essential that they establish social bonds. Thus, from an evolutionary selection perspective we now possess internal mechanisms that direct humans beings into lasting relationships and social bonds. Our need to be connected and establish healthy bonds is as essential to our emotional and physical well beings as food and safety.”

And in contemporary times, it would be understandable to conclude that finding such belonging can only reap in psychological benefits.

“The Experienced Psychological Benefits of Place Attachment,” a 2017 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, narrows the discussion down to “place attachment” and explains that while this specific premise is “under-explored,” there are positive implications for our well-being.

“If forming emotional connections to places is part of human nature,” researchers note, “we must ask, for what purpose? Uncovering the psychological benefits afforded by person-place bonds can help to answer this question. In general, place attachment bonds, while intact, are positively associated with quality of life, life satisfaction, and various other dimensions of well-being. The connection between place attachment and well-being has been more commonly investigated at the neighborhood, community, and city scales than at other scales, and a number of studies have focused on this relation among older adults in particular.”

I wanted to explore the (rather broad) subject matter of what it means to instill a sense of belonging, and more importantly, the several ways in which we define what it means to feel at home — a profound human need that can contribute to a positive well-being and foster overall happiness.

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