Why You Should Start Improving Your Social Wellness Today
Maybe you’re wondering what the heck Social Wellness even is? Is it some glorified version of the petty social clubs we experienced in junior high? Is it learning how to win friends and influence people? And why should you even try? Aren’t you kind of stuck with wherever you are on the social ladder?
Ah, my friends, welcome to the next corner of Life Is A Puzzle. This is my ongoing series about how to go about putting your life back together when it’s been smashed to smithereens by the vagaries of life. Previously I’ve written about the Physical, Mental, and Emotional health and wellness corners of Life.
This week I examined Social Wellness. To be completely honest, since this was the last corner that I added, I didn’t really expect to find much information about it. It turns out I was wrong. I actually found way more than I had for any previous post. Huh. Well, I’m not a terribly social person myself, maybe that explains my lack of awareness.
I found that it came down to three questions that I wanted to answer. What is Social Wellness, let’s face it, this isn’t a thing they covered in school, and neither my doctor, nor my therapist ever asked me about my Social Wellness. What are the benefits of Social Wellness? It turns out that there are quite a few. And finally, what are some ways that we can improve our social wellness, especially if it’s an area of growth for us.
What is Social Wellness?
Like I said, I didn’t expect any clear answer to this when I pushed “search” on the Google search bar. It’s surprisingly broad, and surprisingly applicable to large swaths of life. (Page, 2020) It is:
- The Ability to Adapt to Social Situations
- Staying True to Yourself
- Balancing Social and Personal Time
- Being Engaged with Your Community
- The Ability to Develop and Maintain Friendships
- Creating Healthy Boundaries
- Having a Supportive Network
Where do you stand?
Now all of this is fine and good, however, really, how do you know where you stand? Some of the things that you can ask yourself are (University of New Hampshire, 2023):
- Am I assertive? Without being Passive or Aggressive?
- You can ask for feedback. Alternatively, others may give you unsolicited feedback on this…
- How balanced is my social time vs. my personal time?
- Do a time audit. Just like at work, clock your hours when you’re off the clock. Are you satisfied with how the report looks?
- Be who you are.
- Do you feel that there are at least some times and places where you can be your authentic self?
- Are you having fun?
- Burnout is a sure sign that something isn’t’ working in your life. Plus making friends and maintaining friendships is a whole lot easier when you can have fun together.
- How engaged are you in your community?
- Do you volunteer? Do you talk to your neighbors, at least occasionally in passing?
- Do you value diversity and treat others with respect?
- Seriously? If I must explain this, you probably don’t. That being said, we can all learn ways to be better at valuing diversity and being respectful of others. Learn about their life experiences, their struggles, and triumphs.
- Are you maintaining and developing friendships?
- Who can you reach out to if you have an emergency? What if you just want to say “Hi!” Many Friendships have a lifecycle. They synchronize with the season of life that you and the other person are in. It’s OK for them to ebb and flow.
- Can you effectively create boundaries that encourage communication, trust, and conflict management?
- Within your relationships, from the most mundane to the most intimate, these are the skills that allow you both to gain the most from the experience. They weren’t taught in school, and to be honest, most of our families SUCKED at teaching or using them as well. Most of us need to learn about them and practice them starting from scratch.
- Do you have supportive friends and/or family?
- So, this one allows for some wiggle room. We weren’t all blessed with the most supportive families, so in that case, you can build friendships that fulfill many of the same functions.
All Figured Out? Or Still Figuring It Out?
At this point in time, you may be thinking that you’ve got your Social Wellness on lock, or maybe you’re thinking that this is just not a strong suit for you. Either way, the next question is, what are the benefits of either being high in social wellness, or if you aren’t why should you work on it?
I think a partial answer is that we all just made it through a pandemic with multiple lockdowns. I think we all noticed the effects of taking a significant break from being social. The opposite answer is that we already know what it’s like to have low social wellness.
The Benefits of Social Wellness
The benefits of Social Wellness are less stress, more productivity, general better health, increased creativity and resilience, and increased self-confidence. That’s an impressive line-up. For those of us for whom being social isn’t quite second nature, there are some solid reasons to make a substantial effort towards increasing our social skills. Because all those benefits of social wellness are likely to cascade into other areas of our life. Better productivity and self confidence are related to better jobs, higher income as well as better mental and emotional health. Are you starting to see how it’s connected? More creativity and resilience could lead to more fulfilling hobbies, again to increased productivity, as well as being more balanced, and better able to balance stress and emotional regulation. All that means better emotional health. It’s pretty incredible, and like I said, also pretty motivating to put effort into improving social skills and outcomes.
How Do We Improve Our Social Health?
While we’re on the topic of improving social wellness, let’s figure out the nuts and bolts of what exact steps we can take to get better are social stuff!
In reality it boils down to one thing: spending time with people. However, there are some more specific ideas that I can offer as far as what to do with that time. As well as which people might be good choices. Perhaps the easiest place to start is to attend celebrations together (Page, 2020). It’s pretty well accepted across families, communities and cultures that many celebrations are held where larger groups of people get together to celebrate. Go to them. I know, it can be a pain.
My July 4th Story
For me, I like to go to bed early, I’m not a huge fan of crowds or loud noises. And for several years I skipped the Fourth of July fireworks because, why bother, there’s nothing there for me, right?
Turns out I was wrong. After skipping it for a couple years, I had to go because my kids were in a thing. And you know what? I loved it! Yes, it was loud, yes we had to pay for parking, yes, there were too many people. Yet, I loved the fireworks themselves. I loved the color and the feeling of being in the same place with so many people experiencing the same thing and enjoying the show. So now, I have a reminder on my calendar that repeats every July 4th. It says, “Go to the fireworks tonight. You like it!” And every year, I get that reminder, and think, “oh yeah, I DO like going to the fireworks.”
Simple Way to Get More Social
Celebrations are also easy because often, all you must do is show up. Maybe you can bring a bottle of wine, a covered dish, or help out in some way with the set up or clean up. That can make things feel less awkward, and give you an opportunity to get to know some people in a more informal way. Work celebrations count, as well as family. Whether it’s happy hour, pizza Friday, niece’s birthday, annual religious holiday, federal or community holiday, GO. Even if you are in a new area, and don’t know very many, or any people, go to the thing. Just showing up is a big piece of the puzzle. Smile, say hi, share the experience of the place and time with others. It’ll pay off.
Another great way to expand your social circle is to work out together. That can mean anything from showing up at the gym at the same time every day (or however often you work out) and at least recognizing the people who are there at the same time. It can mean signing up for a class, league or outing and meeting the other participants. Learning new skills are a similar category. Maybe a pottery class or IT class is more your speed?
One thing to be aware of is that you will naturally end up connecting with different people on different levels. There will be some people that you connect with deeply and they may become your best friends, some people might not be your cup of tea, and you just wave or say Hi and move on. Many people will fall somewhere in-between. It’s all OK. There are places in your life for all kinds of friendships and relationships.
Self Care, Again?
One, perhaps underrated social wellness skill is taking care of yourself. (National Institutes of Health, 2021) While a part of social wellness is having people that you can rely on and ask for help when you need it. It also means being reliable and showing up as your best self for them as well. And yes, somedays your best self might not have showered, or might need to borrow a truck to move your apartment. Most days, people will feel safer being around you if you seem to be working on taking care of your stuff, being responsible to and for yourself.
All of this is to say, take some time to truly evaluate the status of your social health and wellness, and reflect on what you want and /or need to work on. Like with all the corners of the Life Puzzle, once you start to have a sense of what you’d like to improve, you can come up with some concrete steps to take to experiment and see what happens. Like with the other corners, change won’t be instantaneous. You’ll have to be patient, and consistent. Relationships especially take time to develop.
What about you? What are you going to work on to improve your social wellness? Please share in the comments below.
Looking for an easy, low bar way to get more social? How about you sign up for my newsletter? I send it out on the first of the month with a roundup of my posts from the previous month, journal prompts and challenges for the upcoming month. Looking forward to connecting with you!
Kasley Killam, M. (2023, 02 14). What Is Social Health? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-health/202302/what-is-social-health
National Institutes of Health. (2021, 08 26). Social Wellness Toolkit. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/social-wellness-toolkit
Page, S. (2020, 06 11). What is Social Health? A Pillar of Wellness Workers Need Now. Retrieved from Total Wellness: Employee Wellness Blog: https://info.totalwellnesshealth.com/blog/what-is-social-health#:~:text=Social%20health%20is%20the%20ability,your%20social%20and%20personal%20time
University of New Hampshire. (2023). Social Wellness. Retrieved from University of New Hampshire, Health: https://www.unh.edu/health/social-wellness