What is social wellness?
Simply put, social wellness is the giving and receiving of social support to nurture yourself and others. Your friends, your family, your coworkers, the barista at your favourite coffee place – they’re all part of your social wellness and support network.
Your social wellness and support network acts as a buffer between you and negative or adverse life events. Imagine being worried about that big presentation at work so you call someone in your social network – they help you process and look at the bigger picture while helping to elevate your self-image. You leave that conversation confident and ready to take on any challenge ahead of you.
Social support like this comes mainly in three ways:
- Emotional – giving and receiving emotional support helps you feel cared for and brings you balance and stress relief when you need it most.
- Instrumental – support or assistance received from others that is physically tangible.
- Informational support – supplying or receiving beneficial or helpful information.
…but there is a bonus social support system:
- Appraisal – information given to you that helps with self-evaluation. If no one has told you today – that colour looks amazing on you!
Why does social wellness matter?
Let’s start at the beginning and roll the clock back to 1905.
Dr. Joseph Pratt, a Boston internist, noted that there was a psychological component to somatic diseases and began to include group therapy, or “support groups,” as part of his treatment for tuberculosis. These groups were primarily focused on education, but Pratt soon realized that the group members began to create social bonds over their disease and credited much of his treatment success to these support groups and the social wellbeing therein.
Research shows that:
- People who have a strong social network tend to live longer and have better emotional resilience.
- The heart and blood pressure of people with healthy relationships respond better to stress.
- Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine system and healthier cardiovascular functioning.
- Healthy social networks enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases.
How can you take care of your social wellness?
So now you’re thinking – how do I take care of my social wellness?
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Practice self-care – When you’re taking care of yourself – getting enough sleep, drinking water, reading a book you love, journaling, etc – you’re able to take care of others and handle stress better. Mark your calendar! July 24 is International Self-Care Day.
- Take a walk or work out– you may meet some neighbours you didn’t know you had and there’s an added benefit of some physical activity.
- Volunteer – donate some time to a local charity or group. Not only will you feel great for helping, but you may also make a new friend or a group of friends with common passions and interests.
- Take a class – Sign up for a local adult-ed class on cooking, sewing, welding, pottery, or other interest that suits you. It’s likely that you’ll make a connection and bond with other members of the class.
- Ask for help – Moving furniture, doing some DIY home renovations, or just need a buddy to run errands? Ask a friend to help – not only are you working on your own social wellness, but you’re contributing to theirs too!
- Join a support or networking group – Check out online networking sites like Meetup for events in your area.
- Call an old friend (or a new friend) to catch up – Don’t skip the opportunity to reach out and tell an old (or new) friend that something reminded you of them.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization, 1948
About the Author
Sara Littlefield is the Partner Marketing Manager for SilverCloud Health, the world’s leading digital mental health and wellbeing platform. A lifelong writer and storyteller, Sara joined the SilverCloud Health team this year to lead segment and partner marketing efforts. She holds a PhD from Boston College in English and has worked in the healthcare IT field with an emphasis on clinical optimization for nearly 10 years. When she’s not spinning a tale, Sara can be found wandering local antique shops looking for a new project, volunteering, or renovating her 200-year-old farmhouse.