A person’s social network and their physical health are closely connected. Poor social relationships can result in poor overall health and well-being, and individuals who suffer from health problems are more likely to feel isolated, especially if mobility is an issue. Let’s take a closer look at the complex connection between one’s social life and health.
What is wellness? Achieving wellness is much more than being physically healthy. Individuals who achieve an optimal level of well-being have adopted a lifestyle that satisfies all their needs.
Finding happiness and a sense of purpose in life are important aspects of well-being. Being physically healthy can help an individual be more active and achieve the things that will make them happy, but physical health in itself doesn’t guarantee happiness.
An individual can achieve wellness by finding a lifestyle that is enriching, by developing their spirituality, working on their self-esteem, and establishing positive social relations.
Why Is Social Health So Important?
Good social health is crucial because humans need social contact to live a fulfilling life. Meaningful connections are the key to emotional and social well-being.
It is possible to achieve social well-being through positive relations with friends, family members, and through belonging to a community. Developing this kind of meaningful connections can help an individual find personal happiness.
There are many benefits associated with having a strong support network. Being able to interact with friends and family regularly helps an individual find happiness and fulfillment, but a good support network can also open up new opportunities.
A strong support network can turn into an invaluable resource when an individual experiences health issues, struggles with finances, or runs into some emotional problems and needs a friend who will listen.
The Social Determinants Of Health
An individual’s social background has a huge impact on their physical health throughout their entire life. The social determinants of health include a person’s social class, their income, the area where they live, and even the values that were transmitted by their parents. Someone’s upbringing can influence whether or not they will play an active part in managing their health later in life.
A person’s social situation also determines what kind of healthcare services are available. Screenings and regular checkups might be difficult to access for an individual with limited financial resources.
In fact, the neighborhood where one lives can impact how strong their social health is. This is called the social capital of a neighborhood. A community where neighbors interact with each other and are willing to do small favors for one another has high social capital, and its inhabitants will be more likely to have good social health.
A person’s social circle can also have an impact on their overall health. Spending time with negative individuals can have a draining effect, and having friends who drink and smoke will make one more likely to adopt these unhealthy habits.
Something as simple as a friend showing concern for a health issue or an unhealthy habit could result in a person adopting a more active role when it comes to managing their health.
The Negative Effects Of Loneliness
The absence of meaningful social connections can make one feel extremely lonely. Experiencing loneliness is detrimental to one’s health, and this issue is more widespread than previously thought.
A recent study asked Americans to assess their level of loneliness on a scale ranging from 20 to 80. The average person assessed their level of loneliness at 44.
Being lonely can trigger a physical response. It is possible to experience chronic inflammation as a result of loneliness. Individuals who are isolated also have a higher risk of developing heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and depression.
Stress is another issue. Without a strong support system, a lot of situations can quickly become stressful. Receiving moral or financial support from friends and relatives or just being able to vent to someone can go a long way towards managing stress.
Individuals with poor social health are more likely to pick up unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, or even drug use. Loneliness can also result in mental health problems or worsen existing mental health conditions.
How To Achieve Social Wellness
It is possible to achieve social wellness if you are willing to make a few changes to your lifestyle. Feeling lonely or adopting some unhealthy habits are signs that it is time to work on your social health.
Identify The Obstacles
You need to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving optimal social health. Poor social skills might be preventing you from forming meaningful connections with others. You should think about therapy if this is a serious issue, or can work on improving your social skills by yourself.
Time constraints might be an obstacle to socializing. School and work can make it difficult to engage in social activities. Living in an isolated area can also limit your opportunities to socialize.
You might have a circle of friends and see your family regularly but still feel lonely. This is a sign that your social connections are very superficial. You will need to work on strengthening these connections or on finding individuals with whom you can form deeper connections.
Set Some Goals
You can develop a strong support network overnight. Building a close-knit circle of friends will take years, but it will be worth it.
Start with small goals, especially if you want to develop your social skills. Focusing on existing friendships or acquaintances to turn them into more meaningful connections would be a great place to start.
Try to find a couple of things you can do each week to improve your social health. This could be making a phone call to a relative or an old friend. You could focus on finding new friends and attend a weekly meeting of a local group.
There are plenty of small things you can do throughout the day. Try to make small talk when you run errands, shop at the same local businesses, talk to coworkers during your breaks, and generally make an effort to be more open to social interactions. These small things will make you feel less lonely and improve your overall well-being.
Be A Good Friend
You can build meaningful friendships by becoming the friend you have always wanted to have. Be positive, work on your listening skills, and don’t hesitate to do small favors and to give your time to your friends.
Developing empathy and trust, adopting a positive attitude, and being open to new experiences will help you build strong friendships. These are things that take time and that require real efforts, but the results will be worth it.
Be mindful of how you communicate with friends and relatives. Avoid saying negative things, make an effort to be true to yourself, and don’t hesitate to bring up deeper topics instead of making small talk.
Meeting New People
Meeting new people is a huge part of achieving optimal social health. You should work towards meeting new people throughout your entire life, even if you already have a good support system.
Making new friends is going to take time. Keep in mind that not every new person you meet is going to become a close friend.
Start by finding a setting where you feel comfortable and can interact with people. Here are a few examples:
- School or adult education programs.
- Work or internships.
- Community events.
- Cultural events.
- Local dog park.
- Local sporting events.
- Online meetups with people who share similar interests.
Look for positive people who are ready to make new friends. Look for the people who make you feel comfortable and who won’t judge you.
You can also talk to friends and relatives about your social health and mention that you would like to meet new people. They might be able to introduce you to some of their friends or attend local events with you.
Maintaining Existing Friendships
A good friendship takes work. If you have some friends or acquaintances but don’t feel close to them, you should try to meet with these people regularly and do things together.
Set some reminders to contact your friends and look for activities you can do together. Texting and social media interactions won’t be enough to strengthen a friendship.
Plan a weekly coffee date to catch up with your friends, have lunch together during a workday, and plan some friend dates during the weekends. You can even invite a friend over and enjoy some takeout if you feel like staying home.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your friends about your social health and to agree on how often you will contact each other and plan things you can do together.
Your social health is important and neglecting it could have a negative impact on your happiness and your physical health. If you are experiencing loneliness, it is time to start working on developing a strong support system. Having some close friends will make your life happier and more meaningful.