Define the word health. Easy right….the first thing that usually comes to mind when thinking of the word is the idea of not being sick or injured. While some of us go further to include mental health and the idea of being free from psychological struggles such as depression, PTSD, or OCD; defining health turns out to be a little more complex.
Health is dynamic. Health is multi-dimensional. Health is not a complete state or a fixed outcome. The more aware you are of the different facets of health and the more you begin to focus on improving upon these many facets within yourself, the closer you are to encompassing a positive, and well-balanced, life.
In addition to the physical and mental health dimensions, environmental health, financial health, occupational health, intellectual health, sexual health, spiritual health, and social health make up what is called the wellness wheel.
For today, I am going to focus on the importance of social health [hence the Randy Newman title reference]. Nowadays social media, news segments, magazine articles, and newspaper stories are filled to the brim with negative commentary about all the things we as humans are inflicting upon each other. It seems that it is now easier to display hate and hostility then it is to accept differences in opinion and practice love, respect, and humility. This is why social health is so important. You are considered socially healthy if you are able to develop, and maintain, a sense of belonging and connectedness with another person and if you have a support system in place to rely on in tough situations [such as cyber-bullying]. That being said, your support system can be one person or it can be fifty people. As long as at the end of the day you have someone to reach out to if you’re struggling.
Social health is linked to many positive benefits. The American Psychological Association (2015) explains it best. They’ve determined that social health can be deemed a protective factor to stress and coping with tough situations. Those on the positive spectrum of social health have higher self-esteem, a brighter outlook, better performance, better coping skills, and better relationships with others around them. They also found that those on the more negative side of social health are more at risk of high blood pressure, increased cardiovascular risk, cognitive decline, and poor peer connectedness.
I am not saying that to be considered socially healthy you need to go out and gain a million new friends, stop being an introvert, and go experience everything on your bucket list tomorrow. Having social support and an increased sense of belonging is as simple as talking to a friend, a family member, co-workers, neighbors, or members of your community. Even saying hello to a passerby on the street or doing something kind for a stranger, the environment, or even an animal is enough to give you the sense of belonging in this world.
If you are looking for some ways to reach out to your existing social support group or to expand your horizons and meet someone new, try some of these fun tips:
- Call, text, Facetime, or Skype friends or family that you haven’t spoken to in a while or just for a good laugh [reason #1 why I call my sister 10x a day]
- Use the many social media outlets there are to find events in your area or to connect with friends
- Websites like meetup.com, groupon.com, or livingsocial.com are jam packed with activities, groups, clubs, or events in your area where you can be linked to people with similar interests and passions as you
- Many libraries hold book clubs, movie nights, and yoga classes for a small or non-existent fee
- Museums, popular districts of town, or old houses do historical tours
- Gyms always have group classes where, in between huffing and puffing, you can meet someone from your town you may not have met otherwise
Art classes Wine and paint nights are a great bonding time for all, and you get to show off your amazing, in my case not-so-amazing, art skills
- Local community colleges have a whole range of classes to try for a reasonable price (i.e. photography, cooking, coding, graphic design, etc.)
There are so many more ways to improve your social health, but like I said.. it’s dynamic. What may help one person improve their sense of belonging may not be your cup of tea. But all you can do is try, keep your head up, and move on. You’ll find your niche. Regardless…you got a friend in me.