What is social wellness? It is about nurturing ourselves, others and our relationships. Social wellness consists of not only balancing our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, but also actively participating as an interdependent piece of the bigger puzzle of humankind. Thus, even as we care about our personal connections, we also care about the greater good of society, including our communities and the environment.
Social wellness involves openly communicating needs, feelings, thoughts and desires to those we trust, and actively listening with empathy when they share with us. It involves engaging in and enjoying positive interactions with other people in work and leisure and building and maintaining meaningful friendships, intimate relationships and professional connections.
To cultivate your habits of social wellness, follow these seven guidelines:
Practice Self-Care. Finding balance in life can be difficult at times, and we are much more prepared to deal with obstacles if we are in a good habit of practicing self-care. Self-care embraces basic needs such as getting enough sleep, bathing and brushing your teeth, eating healthy, exercising regularly and avoiding negative coping mechanisms like smoking or over-drinking.
It also includes using positive coping skills to manage stress, self-soothe and relax through fulfilling or creative outlets like hobbies, crafts, art, sports activities, hiking, dancing, and social interactions with friends. You may also choose to engage in activities that nurture you emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, such as meditation, yoga, therapy, journaling, taking classes in areas of interest, spiritual retreats or attending religious services.
Know Thyself. Get to know yourself—identify your needs, preferences and values and communicate them to the people around you. Knowing who you are, who you want to be and where your boundaries lie supports you to engage in positive relationships with people who have similar interests and values, and can relate to you while encouraging your growth.
Don’t Criticize, Judge or Blame. People can easily get caught up in self-critical thinking, which perpetuates low self-esteem, contributes to depression and anxiety, and inhibits social interaction. No one wants to be judged, criticized or blamed, and if those dynamics are present, it can indicate an unhealthy, and potentially abusive, relationship.
Own Up to Your Part. In every relationship, there are two people involved and each contributes to any situation that comes up, whether positive or negative. Take responsibility for yourself in disagreements or conflict by using “I” language and don’t push all the blame onto the other person. When an individual argues for the sake of being “right” rather than trying to understand the other side, the other person may feel invalidated or unheard. This can result in resentment, further conflict and the eventual end of the relationship.
Rekindle old friendships and nurture relationships with people who are respectful, positive and supportive. No human being is perfect. Everyone gets caught up in the challenges of daily life at times, and rekindling old relationships that have been positive ones in the past is a great way to strengthen your social support system. Maintaining friendships with individuals who respect, love and accept you for who you are is crucial to our social wellness.
Don’t be a flake! Be mindful of the commitments you make and keep them. Know your limitations and don’t spread yourself too thin. Before making a commitment, be sure that you can realistically meet that expectation, taking into account and prior commitments and self-care.
Appreciate Yourself and Others. Giving more energy to positives than negatives helps to keep us happier, healthier, and more hopeful. Regularly acknowledging the positive qualities you see in yourself and paying genuine compliments to others you care about feels good all the way around. The power of positive thinking can go a long way!
Here are a few suggested activities that will support you in cultivating social wellness—use these as a starting point to inspire your own ideas!
- Go to the gym, the park, or a yoga, fitness or dance class
- Take up a hobby and find others who share your interest
- Join groups on www.meetup.com or other social networking sites
- Think of a cause that you are passionate about and volunteer
- Plan a regular lunch date with your best friend, mother, father, etc.
- Organize a spa day with a group of friends or colleagues
- Set a regular date night with your significant other or dinner with your family
- Call an old friend from college or high school and catch up
Cultivating social wellness is like keeping a flower garden—it takes intention, energy, time, care and effort—and is an ongoing process that requires attention throughout our entire life. It is important to choose a proper plot, carefully prepare the soil, plant the best seeds, and be sure to provide plenty of water and nutrients. In gardening, as in relationships, providing protection from bad weather and regularly weeding out negativity helps to ensure continued growth and beautiful blossoms for a lifetime!