Social wellness refers to the relationships we have and how we interact with others. The way we socialize (and don’t socialize) with others impacts our overall wellbeing. Studies have illustrated that social isolation and loneliness are associated with a greater risk of poor mental health, cardiovascular health issues, sleep problems, low self-esteem, increased stress and other health problems. On the other hand, strong social support has been positively linked to improvements in ability to cope with stress and an increase in other healthy lifestyle behaviors.
If you’re interested in strengthening your social wellness skills and resources, here are 5 ways you can get started.
A solid start to improving social wellness includes considering what social wellness means for you. What does your ideal social life look like? Be as specific as possible in your reflection. For example, perhaps consider: How many relationships do you need to feel supported? Do you want friends who share similar interests and/or life experiences? How often would you like to attend social gatherings?
Once you have an understanding of your social wellness needs and preferences, it can also help to assess your current social network. This is how we can begin to see where our social strengths are and where we want to grow. If you’re interested in exploring these topics for yourself, here are some journaling prompts that might help:
Boundaries help us to balance our needs with the needs of others in a sustainable way. Overextending ourselves can lead to emotional and/or physical exhaustion and worsen our mental and physical health. Learning how to set (and keep) boundaries for ourselves as well as accept and respect the boundaries from others leads to stronger social connections and a more positive attitude toward the self. Moreover, studies show that we become more like who we are around the most. We are a social species and the social interactions we experience do impact how we think, feel and behave.
If you are experiencing difficulty sustainably setting and/or keeping boundaries, talk therapy can be an extremely useful tool. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy are helpful with helping to bridge the gap, and getting you closer to living in alignment with your personal social wellness values. Family-focused therapy can help to support healthy familial relationships. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy focus on addressing interpersonal challenges.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
Our emotions and sensations respond to social interactions whether they are physical, digital or imagined. The links between social media and mental health are a hot topic lately, and for good reason. Not only have people been curious about the impact of marketing and advertising on mental health and self-image, but also the relationships between digital stressors on our physiology. So, if you’re noticing that certain social media profiles often correlate with you feeling ashamed, jealous, etc. – please validate your emotions! Emotions can provide important information to help us make decisions relating to what we want and need (or what we don’t).
Consider the value of that digital content and whether it is worth the price you are paying for it (financially, mentally/cognitively, emotionally and/or physically). If it isn’t valuable enough to your overall personal wellness, consider cutting it off. If you do find the uncomfortable content valuable, you may wish to limit use in some way rather than discontinuing use entirely. For example, some social justice movement profiles may trigger feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, etc. However, if the content is important and valuable to you, perhaps setting boundaries around how often you’re consuming the information and/or searching for other resources/communities that are a better fit for you could actually be highly beneficial to your overall wellness.
Resolving and managing conflict is another helpful way to practice social self-care and improve overall social wellness. Gaining an awareness of which conflict management style you tend to use can help to build upon your strengths and work to pull in other conflict management styles when needed. Click here to take an assessment and learn more about your conflict management style.
Now that we have covered 5 ways to strengthen social wellness, the next step is to make lifestyle changes to better support your social self-care journey. Once you’ve explored some of the topics above, perhaps consider creating specific actionables toward a healthier social network. Here are a few examples/suggestions you may wish to include as part of your social wellness action plan: