Social wellness is one dimension of our overall wellness; it’s domain is our relationships with other people.
From a quick glance, social wellness seems to be influenced by the outside world — the people we work, live, and interact with — but, in fact, good or bad social wellness comes from within us. With this information, we know that our social wellness can always be improved.
In exploring social wellness, we’ll look at:
- What is social wellness?
- Why is good social wellness important?
- How do you cultivate social wellness?
What is Social Wellness?
Social wellness is concerned with our interpersonal relationships and social skills. The pursuit of social wellness involves building an identity and sense of self worth in order to build healthy, fruitful relationships with others.
Someone with good social wellness is able to manage their responsibilities and their relationships so that neither interferes with the other. If they’re in a romantic relationship, they balance it with their relationships with friends and family. They have a social support network they can turn to for help, and also feel comfortable with who they are as an individual.
Why is Social Wellness Important?
Someone who lacks a social support network, does not create new connections with people, or who has poor social skills may suffer from isolation. Social isolation can have severe mental and physical effects comparable to smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Another benefit of social support networks is the different types of support they can provide. Emotional support in times of crisis helps with stress and anxiety. Your social support network may also provide instrumental support, such as physical acts, lending items, and gifts. They may also share information as a form of support.
When your social wellness improves, other aspects of your life improve, such as:
- Communication skills
- Comfort in social settings
- Emotional resilience
- Assertive skills
How to Cultivate Social Wellness?
Improving your social wellness is different for everyone as we all have different starting points and different areas of weakness. We’ll look specifically at three areas:
- building social skills,
- maintaining existing relationships, and
- creating new connections.
Social skills allow you to ask for what you need, communicate clearly, and understand others. Maintaining relationships is necessary for the health of the relationships and also because it leads to social interaction which prevents isolation. Creating new connections strengthens our social support network and may broaden our world view.
Building Social Skills
Social skills are how we communicate with, relate to and understand others. Good social skills allow us to communicate effectively and appropriately. Poor social skills may lead to conflicts, miscommunication, or an inability to express how we feel which can all deteriorate our relationships with others.
Before considering how we communicate with others, we must look at how we perceive ourselves. Our sense of self-worth will impact how we communicate with others. Exploring and understanding your values can help you surround yourself with like-minded people and set boundaries for what you are and are not comfortable with.
Open communication is necessary for both parties in a relationship to feel heard and understood. Communication goes both ways; you need active listening skills and empathy to provide emotional support for others and also assertive communication skills to stand up for your needs and boundaries.
Relationships need maintenance to remain strong and effective. Maintenance serves the additional purposes of further strengthening your relationships and facilitating social interaction. Maintaining relationships includes time spent and also how that time is spent.
Taking time to catch up with old friends and setting regular “dates” with friends, family, and your partner is an easy way to maintain relationships. Equally important is to ensure you don’t spread yourself too thin and burn out!
Part of valuing yourself and others is protecting yourself in your relationships. This includes setting healthy boundaries, asking for what you need, and leaving toxic or abusive relationships.
When conflicts occur (which they may), don’t jump to conclusions regarding others’ motives. During conflict, take responsibility for your actions and use assertive communication to express your needs and feelings.
When communicating with others, show appreciation both verbally and non verbally. Be honest, supportive, non-judgmental, and non-critical. Practice self-disclosure, that is, sharing your thoughts and feeling with others
Beyond the benefit of expanding your social support network, creating new connections is a fun way to practice communication skills and to expand your worldview. Beyond school and work, here are some ideas for places to meet people with similar interests:
- Volunteer for a cause you are passionate
- Join a hobby group
- Take a class
- Visit the dog park
- Join a gym or exercise group
- Visit a community garden or park
- Take part in neighborhood events
- Join a music or theater group
- Travel to new places
Socializing seems to come easy to some people; if it doesn’t come easily to you, don’t fret! Implementing the strategies and improving your weaker areas will improve your social wellness. Over time, social habits that were difficult will become second nature.
For people with mental health conditions, such as social anxiety, and for those with especially underdeveloped social skills, the route social wellness is much tougher. You may want to consider therapy, counselling, or social skills training.
I hope you take something away from this article, and please share what you do to cultivate social wellness. I’m sure we can all improve our communication skills and make the world a better place. And if you want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list to hear about new posts and get first access to special projects I’m working on.