Your relationships with others and the community around you shape your mental, physical, and emotional health. If you want to take a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, you should prioritize social wellness.
Social wellness is the ability to form and maintain relationships with others and to interact and communicate well within those relationships. Practicing social wellness involves proactively communicating with others when we are in need, and providing a listening ear and emotional support when others need us. In this way, social wellness focuses on developing and maintaining relationships with friends, family members, romantic partners, colleagues, or other members of your community. This social connection can help decrease stress, health issues, isolation, and other concerns that can get in the way of a positive, healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few of the most important ways social wellness can help you thrive:
Social wellness can improve physical health
There are reasons why hospitals encourage chronically ill patients to attend emotional support groups or why they require patients to have a support system in place before specific procedures or operations. According to studies conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, social connections can decrease the risk of mortality, re-hospitalization, and stress-related health issues.
While researchers are still exploring the health benefits of maintaining social networks, it is clear that individuals who have social support tend to have better health outcomes than those with a "low quantity or quality" of social relationships. Social relationships can help reduce stress, which can improve many health-related issues. Healthy relationships can provide accountability and encouragement to engage in healthy eating and exercise habits, and they can offer the motivation a person needs to fight through difficult parts of the recovery process.
Social wellness promotes emotional stability
In the same way that a quality network of support provides physical health benefits, maintaining positive relationships with others has emotional health benefits as well. Emotional health relates to an individual's ability to cope with the challenges and difficult situations life brings. If you are emotionally healthy, you can maintain control of your feelings when you face hardships, and you can manage these feelings in positive ways.
When faced with loss, stress, or other painful experiences, an emotionally healthy person avoids risk behaviors and rely on healthy coping strategies. Your social support network can help you when you are experiencing stress or hardships so that you increase your resilience and are better able to cope with life's stressors.
Approximately 79% of Americans encounter significant stress in their daily lives. Whether this stress is major or minor, it can have an impact on your overall wellbeing. Chronic stress, or stress that occurs over a prolonged period, is especially dangerous. The adverse effects of long-term stress are a cause for alarm. Stress is one of the main contributors to six of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, heart disease, accidents, lung and respiratory conditions, cirrhosis, and suicide. Harboring stress is harmful, and it is vital for individuals to take steps to limit the stressors in their lives.
One way to help lower and manage stress levels is to receive support from social relationships. Whether they offer support in the form of advice or active listening or through more tangible ways like offering financial support or providing meals, the people within your circle of relationships can ease the burdens that arise during difficult times. This support can alleviate some of your stress, encourage you to push through your challenging situation, and help you feel valued. If you want to decrease the amount of stress you are experiencing in your daily life, you should invest in relationships with others and focus on social wellness.
Social wellness positively influences mental health
Because of our mental health influences the way we think and behave, it is imperative that we can to monitor and bolster our mental wellbeing. Social wellness helps promote mental health by helping individuals manage stress and reframe negative thoughts.
Pervasive negative thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. One of the best ways to combat these negative thoughts is to communicate these thoughts with others. Speaking to a trusted therapist, friend, or support group can help you change your negative thoughts before these thoughts influence your behavior. Talking to others can also help you manage feelings of anxiety or depression.
Negativity breeds in isolation, and when you are alone, the challenges you are facing seem more significant or insurmountable. Prioritizing social wellness is important because it helps you develop the tools and ability to communicate the problems or thoughts that are bothering you and provide you with people with whom you can share your concerns.
Social wellness fosters connection
Psychologists have long maintained that poor social support can have detrimental effects on an individual's wellbeing. Isolation leads to loneliness, which has several adverse health effects like depression, decreased brain function, and chronic health conditions.
According to a Harvard study, loneliness can shorten a person's lifespan by up to eight years, carrying a risk factor similar to that of smoking 15 cigarettes each day. In addition to this risk factor, isolation can also contribute to anxiety, feelings of sadness and depression, and health conditions like coronary heart disease.
Social wellness helps combat isolation and loneliness because social relationships can help individuals face life and all its joys and sorrows with the help of others. Nothing helps fight the negative impacts of loneliness like the presence of people who can offer love and support, rejoice in your accomplishments, and walk with you through moments of pain. The connection is a critical component of social wellness, and it is essential for your health.
In addition to the benefits that come from receiving support, offering support and connection to people in your social network yields positive results. Helping others causes feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment, reduces stress, and helps better your community.
Practicing Social Wellness
If you want to pursue wellness in every aspect of your life, you cannot neglect social wellness. Social wellness influences almost every area of your being from your physical health to your emotional stability, and it is essential in determining the quality of your general wellbeing.
People are not meant to go through life alone, and building connections with others is essential for survival. It is crucial for every individual to recognize that he is a part of a broader community and that he needs to engage with other members of the community to remain healthy.
Take some time to examine your current relationships and social needs. If you realize that you do not have a social network or that you're neglecting some of your relationships, you should make the changes necessary to improve your social wellness.
Here are a few steps you can take to move toward social wellness:
- Practice open, honest communication of your needs
- List elements that make a relationship rewarding and make sure you are providing these factors in your relationships
- Reflect on your current relationships and determine which ones need improvement
- Schedule time to reach out to your friends, family members, and colleagues
- Be intentional with the time you spend with others
- Join an organization, volunteer, or take up a hobby that expands your social circle
- Improve your active listening skills and practice empathy
As you take these steps, notice improvements within your relationships, and you can find yourself closer to achieving social wellness.
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