Social Wellness: Definition and Examples
Continuing our series of articles dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the dimensions of wellness, this piece is focused on the social aspect of living a good and healthy life.
As we all know perfectly well and keep hearing all the time, humans are social beings. Living together in communities lies in our nature, therefore, is vital for our well-being. Many studies have shown that this statement is neither outdated nor overrated.
Being part of a social group, having strong and healthy relationships with family members and friends, and generally feeling like a small but substantial piece of the mankind puzzle, are key to overall health, can prevent diseases, boost longevity and improve stress response.
Read on to find out more about what social wellness is, why is social wellness important, and how to improve your social wellness.
What is Social Wellness
“Positive social habits can help you build support systems and stay healthierNational Institute of Health
mentally and physically.”
Similar to other biological species which live, thrive, and survive by grouping together in bigger formations to support their existence, hunting, and raising offspring, humans tend to do the same. From the time we are born, relationships are an extremely important factor in learning how to navigate through life.
Social wellness lies in the essence of human nature
and plays a vital role in the quality of life.
It involves building and maintaining close bonds with friends and family, as well as a strong and trusting love relationship with an intimate partner. Those require successful communication, including both the ability to listen effectively and express empathy, as well as the strength to set aside the ego, show vulnerability in sharing, and ask for help.
There are different areas of social wellness – most important of which are:
1. Family Connections
From one side – we are part of an initial family where we are the younger and eventually in the role of caregivers. Looking after our loved ones gives a warm feeling of satisfaction, meaning, and value to our life.
In addition to that, later in life, we build our own family where we are in the role of a parent – a very rewarding and challenging responsibility. It requires being sensitive, responsive, consistent, and available to the kids to build a positive and trustful connection with them to help them develop their confidence. Having this great of an impact on another human being’s life creates a feeling of importance, purpose, and fulfillment.
Next on the social priority list come the close friendships we built throughout our life.
First, when we are kids, we tend to become close with other children, who are around and we play with – usually, those are the kids of close family friends we meet regularly and on holidays or spend the vacations together. In school, we get close with the kid who sits next to us on the desk and the ones in front and behind us. Even though those contacts are made mostly randomly by chance, they are very important and fundamental for developing social skills and confidence in communicating later in life.
In high school, we start getting picky when it comes to our social environment and choose our companions based on our current interests and hobbies, as in those times, they are pretty dynamic and changing fast. That’s the time when we first experiment with situations and social cases we are about to face in our adult life. Again, how we navigate through those experiences and what we take of them directly results in how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world around us.
University friendships are mature relationships built on a strong foundation of sharing and trust, caring and help, respect and responsibility. People at that age have already been through different situations and scenarios and know a bit better what is important and valuable to them, what is worth their time and attention, and what is not.
3. Colleagues at Work
Similar to contacts in early childhood and school years, relations at the workplace are hard to choose. People are spending a lot of time together, interacting and collaborating, grouped mostly by chance. We get closer to some colleagues rather than others, the pool of people however is somehow predetermined.
To be successful at the workplace we need to master the tools and weapons of effective communication which also boosts our social well-being.
The Washburn University advises on following 5 simple rules to improve your social wellness, and they can be quite useful at work:
- Think before you speak.
- Practice tact when giving suggestions.
- Make others feel important, but be genuine.
- Ask questions, and refrain from doing all the talking.
- Send “Thank You” notes for kind deeds done in your favor.
Social Wellness Activities
The most valuable benefit of having good social wellness is the presence of a social support network. Having someone to turn to in bad times is as important as having the internal emotional strength to push through it yourself.
There are 3 different forms of support:
- Emotional – It’s expressed in the form of care, warmth, empathy, advice by listening to and understanding the other person’s feelings.
- Instrumental – This is the most practical way of showing support; it’s almost always physical, such as lending money.
- Informational – Comes from the knowledge or experience of someone who is sharing what he’s been through with you to save you time or troubles.
To ensure you receive all three forms of support you need to act upon that yourself and nurture your relationships. You might want to implement in your everyday life some of the following activities.
1. To Find New Social Connections
- Take a class in yoga, tai chi, or any other physical activity and use health and fitness topics as icebreakers.
- If you have a dog, walk your pet in public places where other people walk theirs and start conversations with them about your favorite companions.
- Join a group focused on a hobby or interest of yours that meets up regularly.
2. To Bond With Your Family and Friends
- Plan a weekly outdoor activity for the weekend, such as hiking or riding a bicycle.
- Gather regularly for fun group activities, such as playing a board game or a cooking challenge.
Brainstorm solutions to problems you face; this way you achieve multiple bonding – by opening up, showing your feelings, demonstrating vulnerability and trust in one another, as well as asking for help.
3. To Take Care for Yourself
- Make time for physical activity every day, for example, you can start a walking group with friends or co-workers.
- Learn to ask for help – even when you are strongly convinced you can handle something on your own, try to involve someone else.
- Join a therapeutic group for self-improvement where you will meet other people with the same intention and be able to share in a safe environment.
How to Improve Social Wellness
Scientific studies have shown that people who have healthy relationships tend to live longer and respond better to stress. The latter results in a healthier endocrine system, healthier cardiovascular functioning, and an enhanced immune system. And that is why social wellness is important, and you definitely want to invest in improving yours.
The best point to start from is evaluating your current state of social wellness.
The University of New Hampshire have prepared some questions to help you with that, and here are additional notes and ideas:
- Do you keep in touch with your family and look after the ones who need it?
- Do you have at least one good friend you can count on?
- Do you surround yourself with people who you can trust and you know care about you?
- Do you ask for help? How?
- Are you able to communicate clearly when dealing with conflict?
- Are you okay being alone?
- Are you showing gratitude when someone deserves it?
- Are you being empathetic and showing genuine care and understanding when someone confides in you?
Those are just a small portion of the questions you can and should ask yourself daily to make sure you’re on the right track to building and maintaining healthy relationships with other human beings. Those can be implied in every area of your social life – family, friends, co-workers, people you meet at your hobby places, and any other situation where you get to interact with people – at the grocery store, at the queue for paying your bills, etc.
And if the questions are not self-explanatory and you’re still wondering what “the right answers” to those are – they should all be positive! The more and better you perform on each scale, the more socially well you will be.
Social Wellness Goal Examples
By now, you have realized how important your social connections are for the way you feel about yourself, how you manage difficult situations in life, and more.
So what do you do to make sure you retain a high level of social wellness?
Here are some ideas you can use when setting goals for improving and maintaining your social wellness:
- Devote a set amount of time every week to the important people in your life to show that you see them as a priority.
- Show appreciation not only verbally, but with small gestures and acts of kindness as much as possible.
- Try as hard as possible to avoid jumping to conclusions without having the big picture and assuming others feel and see the world as you do.
- Listen with respect and aim at understanding the other person’s point of view rather than looking for weak spots to build your argument on.
- Be open to compromise and try to reach agreements fair to both sides.
- Take ownership of your mistakes and readily admit them, and sometimes, if necessary and vital for preserving the relationship, accept blame even if you disagree.
- Avoid comparison and competition; be happy for the success of others rather than jealous or disappointed and hurt.
Thinking about our health and well-being, we tend to focus only on the physical indications – the food we eat, do we exercise, sleep enough, etc. Equally important, however, is how engaged and adapted socially we are.
Humans are social beings and need an environment offering support, care, and connectedness, to feel fulfilled and valued. This is vital for emotional, mental, and physical health.
When setting our goals for improving our lives, we need to include our relationships and significant others. Devoting time to spend with the people we care about, being conscious in our interaction with them, and the way we react and respond, are substantial for the quality of our social wellness.