As a society, we talk a lot about mental health because it’s a crucial part of our overall wellbeing. But what about social wellness? They may seem tied together – after all, experts say that spending time with our loved ones plays a huge part in feeling healthier emotionally andmentally. However, social wellness should have its own separate category, as it looks at our relationships.
Ready to take a deep dive? Let’s figure out what social wellness actually is and how you can nurture it in your own life.
What is Social Wellness…And Unwellness?
“Social wellness” is essentially having positive relationships with the people in our lives. This applies to friends, family, coworkers, supervisors, and more. July is Social Wellness Month, and it was put in place to help us not only celebrate these relationships, but to remind us to take a look at our connections with others and assess how socially well they might be.
So, what does social wellness look like? Social wellness means being able to maintain your personal mental and emotional health both inside and outside the relationship.
For example, a person who feels like they’re “nothing” or “useless” without having their partner – and they’re partner’s approval – at all times is not in a socially healthy relationship. But a relationship where both people feel like they can be themselves with one another andstill be free to make other commitments to friends and family? Now that’sa socially healthy relationship!
Other indicators of social wellness include:
Feeling engaged with your community
Treating others with respect
Maintaining and building strong, loving friendships
Being able to create healthy boundaries
Feeling capable of communication and trust within relationships
Finding healthy methods of conflict resolution
Being able to self-soothe
Let’s talk about that last one. Being able to self-soothe might seem entirely unrelated to social wellness, but it’s actually a very large part. Similarly to the relationship example, if you are unable to destress alone and find joy through things you love like art, exercise, or other activities, then you might need to take a closer look at what does destress you. Do you need validation from your coworkers or boss before you can calm down? Are you unable to stop stressing because you’re constantly wondering what people think about you?
This is not the same as talking to someone else to feel better. It’s entirely healthy to share worries and struggles with close friends or a therapist. However, if your ability to sleep at night or feel happiness is tethered to another person, then you’re experiencing an imbalance in your social health.
The Connection Between Social Wellness and Physical Health
Just like with mental health, social wellness has huge impacts on your physical health. People with strong social connections tend to live longer and experience less stress. They deal with so much less stress, in fact, that they see healthier endocrine, cardiovascular, and immune systems! (On the flip side, social isolation can lead to health risks as dangerous as high blood pressure and smoking!)
The need for social interaction and strong relationships continues as we age, as one study found that visiting friends regularly as we grow older can decrease chances of developing dementia and ward off other health issues.
How to Practice Social Wellness
When it comes to forming – and maintaining – relationships, there are all sorts of things we can do to grow our bonds with others.
Volunteering is a great way to build a structured time to spend with friends – or to make new ones! It allows you to give back to your community (and feel closer to it), while making a difference in an area you care about – a win-win-win, if you will. Additionally, regular volunteering is known to decrease feelings of depression and increase life satisfaction.
Not sure what to do? I highly recommend volunteering at animal shelters if the world of volunteering seems intimidating or too time-intensive this year. Volunteering at animal shelters is oftentimes a very flexible commitment, and it’s one of my favorite activities. I get to spend time with loved ones and show my love to some furry friends!
Find a Hobby Group
If you love to paint, do yoga, read, etc. – find a group that does, too! This is sort of a “two birds, one stone” situation, but in the best way. Investing time in your hobbies and building relationships during a single activity allows you to do two amazing things at once (which is great for my love of multi-tasking!).
Pencil it In
What the things above have in common is that they have a place in your schedule. It’s easy – especially for us To-Do List lovers – to put off hanging out with friends and family when it’s not in our calendars. As horrible as it sounds, when we’re in the work zone, spending time with the people we love can begin to feel like a waste of time because we’re not making “progress.”
Combat this idea by reminding yourself that building these relationships is important for every aspect of your health and by scheduling it in your calendar.Make plans with family! Decide on a weekly or monthly outing with your friends. Set aside time to turn off the TV and talk to your partner. These seem like simple things, but we can accidentally go months without doing any of it. Deciding on a real plan can make these things possible and skyrocket your social wellness.
Talk to Someone
If you feel like social wellness is out of reach, talking to a therapist can be incredibly helpful. They’ll help you work through complicated emotions and make suggestions on how to reach out to others. Social wellness is possible for everyone, and sometimes, we just need a little help.