July is Social Wellness Month!
Relationships and social interactions and connections are just as important to health as nutrition and exercise.
Social Wellness means nurturing yourself and your relationships, giving and receiving social support, and ensuring that you have family and friends to turn to. Social support enhances quality of life in different forms:
- Emotional: the actions people take to make someone feel cared for
- Instrumental: physical support, such as lending money, housekeeping, or babysitting
- Informational: providing information or resources to help someone
So, why is social wellness so important?
Having healthy relationships is a vital component to physical and mental health and well-being. Studies have shown that the health risks from being alone or isolated in one’s life are comparable to the risks associated with cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Additionally:
- Those with a strong social network tend to live longer
- Those with healthy relationships respond better to stress
- Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine system and healthier cardiovascular functioning
- Those with healthy social networks have stronger immune systems and a better ability to fight off infectious diseases
Think about your social relationships. Do you have a strong social network? In real life, guys, not online!! Do you regularly make plans with friends, talk to friends and family, and do you have people you can turn to in a time of need? Check out these cool resources from the University of Minnesota:
Personal Relationships Assessment : a cool assessment to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses regarding your personal relationships.
Shift Your Emotions Exercise : intentionally shifting your emotions so that they become more positive can enhance your ability to function in your daily life and in your relationships. This interactive audio exercise can help you shift from a negative emotional state to a positive one.
If you already have strong social networks and connections, be sure to nurture and grow them. According to Drs. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, there are five concepts to attaining a healthy and lasting relationship:
- Become a master of commitment: be aware of what you are committing to, and realistically determine if you can follow through.
- Make commitments you can stand by: be honest and open with the people in your relationships.
- Break the cycle of blame and criticism: own your part in the relationship dynamics.
- Shift your attention away from “fixing” someone, and onto better ways to resolve conflicts: this will help inject positive energy into the relationship
- Become a master of verbal and nonverbal appreciation: showing appreciation of others is crucial to healthy relationships.
You can read more about these concepts in their book, Lasting Love: The 5 Secrets of Growing a Vital, Conscious Relationship.
How can you grow your social networks? Think about your own personal interests and hobbies, and then pursue them. Joining different groups or clubs can help you find others with similar passions as yourself. For example:
- If you love sports and working out, join a sport-specific gym (like boxing, crossfit, bootcamp, yoga, rock climbing, or spinning) or club sports team. Social Boston Sports is a hugely popular organization in Boston that has TONS of different teams you can join!
- If you have a dog, walk them in a public dog park or around your neighborhood to meet your neighbors and other dog owners
- If you have a cause that you are passionate about, find a way to volunteer for them. When I was in college, I was a member of Colleges Against Cancer, and continued to volunteer for the American Cancer Society after I graduated
- Get involved with your college’s alumni group in your area. This is a great way to network with fellow alumni, and connect with old friends that you may have fallen out of touch with
- Join a club related to something you are interested in, or start your own! Book club, hiking club, wine club, running club, painting club….the options are endless!
This month, I challenge you to nurture your relationships as much as you possibly can. Call an old friend and make plans-and don’t bail. Try something new, like one of the things outlined above. Call your family members who you don’t get to see very often.
I’m already off to a great start, with a Girl’s Weekend on the cape planned for this weekend. I’m going with four of my best friends-one of whom has been in grad school in Ireland for the past 3 years and I only get to see her a few times a year! I can’t wait!