As we look at the different dimensions of wellness, one area that can be either the most fulfilling or the most difficult is Social Wellness. That’s because our relationships with others are so important to our overall wellbeing, but they can also be a source of angst for many of us.
Let’s take a look at Social Wellness and see how it contributes to our overall wellness. We’ll also see how we can improve this dimension if we’re not doing as well as we’d like.
What Is Social Wellness?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines social wellness as, “developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system.
The University of California, Riverside adds that it “refers to one’s ability to interact with people around them. It involves using good communications skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a support system that includes family members and friends.”
UC Davis (3) adds that Social Wellness includes “fostering a genuine connection with those around you.“
Why Is It Important?
Sometimes we tend to undervalue the social dimension of wellness, but it’s critical to our overall wellness. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and we have to depend on others in some capacity pretty much every day. Good communication skills, treating others with respect, and forming meaningful relationships are key to optimal wellness.
Relationships are work, there’s no doubt about that, but we are social creatures, and we are much better together than we are in isolation.
When I worked with weight-loss clients, one of the key predictors of success was whether they had a supportive social network (family and friends). If they had no outside support, they were not as likely to succeed with their weight-loss goals. That’s not to say they couldn’t succeed, but the success rate was much higher for people who had a support system in place.
Building a support system for ourselves and being part of a support system for others can help us live a healthier, more fulfilling, and possibly longer life.
Ways to Improve Social Wellness
So what are some ways we can improve our social wellness?
- Intentionally plan time with family and friends. How many times have you said, “Let’s go out for coffee sometime” and never followed through with it? ‘Getting together’ might look a little different right now. Our get-togethers may involve Skype or Zoom meetings rather than meeting in person, but making a concerted effort to stay in contact and remain connected is critical, even if we’re physically separated.
- Join groups who are engaged in an activity or cause you enjoy or believe in. Getting involved with people who are passionate about the same thing you are can be a springboard to developing lifelong friendships and widen your social circle. I realize that for those of us who live with chronic illness, participating in some things may be difficult, but with social media, we’re able to become involved in causes and groups that wouldn’t have been accessible to us just a few years ago.
- Surround yourself with positive people. This doesn’t mean that everything needs to be “glitter and unicorns,” but it does mean surrounding yourself with people who generally have a positive outlook on life, who can help you see the good in other people and situations, who lift you up when you’re feeling down, and allow you to do the same for them.
- Treat others with respect and expect the same from them. Just because we don’t agree with people, that doesn’t mean we can’t treat them with respect. By the same token, we can’t allow others to speak disrespectfully to us. If we don’t learn to communicate with respect, we can’t truly build a positive relationship.
For some other ways to improve social wellness, please check out the Social Wellness Toolkit provided by the National Institutes of Health (4) . They have some great tips, including specific suggestions for improving your social wellness. Be sure to click on “flip” at the bottom of each section to see those specific actions you can take.
Worth the Work
Since Social Wellness is so critical to our overall wellbeing, it’s important that we take the time to cultivate strong social ties. Relationships take work, but they’re also rewarding. Having a social network we can lean on can help us be successful in our wellness endeavors.
How’s your social wellness? Do you have any suggestions for improving this dimension? Please share!
(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://www.samhsa.gov
(2) https://wellness.ucr.edu/social_wellness.html (link no longer available)
(3) UC Davis, Social Wellness https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/wellness/social
(4) National Institutes of Health Social Wellness Toolkit, https://www.nih.gov/health-information/social-wellness-toolkit