Social Wellness in 8 Easy Steps
Did you know that having healthy relationships can improve overall health? It is called social wellness or social well-being. In this era of non-face-to-face digital social networking, people are becoming more isolated than ever. The health risks of isolation have been proven to be comparable to those of smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure and obesity.
The reason why social wellness is so important is that people who have healthy relationships, and a strong social network tend to live longer and respond better to stress. This reduction in stress and anxiety results in a healthier endocrine system, healthier cardiovascular functioning and an enhanced immune system.
One of the biggest benefits of having good social wellness is the presence of a social support network. This network can be close friends and family members to turn to when you are in need or in a crisis situation. Your support team can offer assistance, perspective and insight to a situation that may have caused your judgment to become clouded. This support can come in three different forms:
- Emotional – when someone else's actions make you feel cared for.
- Instrumental – something physical such as lending money or cooking a meal.
- Informational – providing information to help someone else.
In order to make sure your social well-being is healthy, it is important to nurture your relationships. They should be mutually beneficial. Are you always the one in need or are you also providing support? Just as you would care for a child or a special pet, your most important relationships should be a priority every day. Here are some things to consider for a lasting relationship:
- Devote a set amount of time every week to the relationship to show that you see it as a priority.
- Be honest and supportive of one another's feelings, hopes and dreams.
- If necessary, accept blame or avoid criticism for any breakdowns in the relationship.
- Don't try to fix the person. Be supportive by focusing on the positives in a situation.
- Show appreciation in verbal and nonverbal ways.
- Never jump to conclusions or respond without the whole picture.
- Treat your relationships as a place to give, not a place to take.
- Don't compete. By happy instead of jealous with successes that aren't your own.
If you find that you are in a relationship that increases your stress level or drains you of your energy, it may not be a healthy one. This can happen when you are with someone who is critical and negative or involved in unhealthy and self-destructive behavior. You must give yourself permission to end a relationship if it is hurting you. Your social support network should give you a feeling of comfort, not apprehension.
If you feel that you would like to expand your social network and aren't quite sure how, there are many options for initiating healthy and lasting relationships.
- If you are a dog owner, walk your pet every day in a public place where there are other people out and about.
- Join a gym or an exercise group. Exercising with others provides a good icebreaker for conversation.
- Volunteering is a great way to meet others who share your same passions.
- Find an interest group that meets regularly and works on their hobbies.
- Go back to school or take a class.
- Attend a house of worship.
Take the time to develop your social support network. Make some new friends or strengthen the healthy relationships you currently have. The effort you put into fostering these relationships have many long-term benefits for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.