Let’s face it, there’s a “month” for everything but the kitchen sink, and there may be one for that as well. But the month of July has an observance, “Social Wellness Month,” that doesn’t get much attention but perhaps should for those who work in the stressful area of senior care.
What is social wellness? It means nurturing yourself and your relationships. Giving and receiving social support and ensuring that you have friends and family, to turn to in times of need or crisis to give you a broader focus and positive self-image.
Social wellness is important because healthy relationships are a vital component of health. The health risks from being alone or isolated are comparable to the risks associated with cigarette smoking, blood pressure, and obesity. In fact, research shows that:
- People who have a strong social network tend to live longer.
- The heart and blood pressure of people with healthy relationships respond better to stress.
- Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine system and healthier cardiovascular functioning.
- Healthy social networks enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases.
To cultivate some habits of social wellness, you can follow these 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 practice self-care. This means getting enough sleep, bathing and brushing your teeth, eating healthy, exercising regularly and avoiding negative coping mechanisms like smoking or over-drinking.
- Use 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 can also choose 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be aware 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, considering any prior commitments and self-care.
- Giving more energy to positives than negatives helps to keep us happier, healthier, and more hopeful. Regularly acknowledging the positive things you see in yourself and paying genuine compliments to others you care about feels good all the way around.
Helpful Social Wellness Resources
- Lewis, T., et. al. (2001). A General Theory of Love. New York: Vintage Books.
- Pennebaker, J. (1990). Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others. New York: Morrow.
- Salovey, P., Rothman, A., Detweiler, J., & Steward, W. (2000). Emotional States and Physical Health. American Psychologist, 55(1).
- Why Love Matters. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
- American Psychological Association’s Help Center https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
- Leaving Abuse http://thesinglemother.com/
- Healthyplace.com https://www.healthyplace.com
- WholeFamily.com http://wholefamily.com/
- Mayo Clinic – Social Support: A Buffer Against Life’s Ills https://www.riversideonline.com/health_reference/Behavior-Mental-Health/
- Depression and Anxiety Support Alliance https://www.dbsalliance.org/
- Conflict Resolution Network https://www.crnhq.org
- McGill University – interactive games on self-esteem http://selfesteemgames.mcgill.ca/games/index.htm