Social Wellness

Social Wellness

A strong social support system is important in helping us through stressful times – whether that stress is a bad day at work or a year impacted by a global pandemic.

We’ve all likely heard the term ‘social support system’ and know that it is a key component of mental health – but what exactly does it mean? Essentially, social support involves having a network of family, friends and peers that you can turn to in times of need.

While there are many different ways people can support each other, research has been done on four distinct types of social support:

      1. Emotional support: This type of support involves listening and empathizing, as well as physical comfort, such as hugs. With emotional support, a friend or family member may listen to your concerns, give you a big hug and let you know they’ve felt the same way too.
      2. Esteem support: Esteem support is shown in expressions of confidence or encouragement. For example, a friend may point out the strengths you’re forgetting you have, or let you know that they believe in you.
      3. Informational support: In information support, people may give you advice or gather and share information that can help you figure out a solution.
      4. Tangible support: People providing this form of support may offer to take on responsibilities to help reduce pressure. This might look like bringing you dinner when you’re unwell or running errands for you when you are time poor.

 

Studies have found numerous benefits of social support systems, which include:

    • Improved ability to cope with stressful situations
    • Alleviating the psychological impact of emotional distress
    • Enhanced self-esteem
    • Lowering cardiovascular risks, such as lowered blood pressure
    • Increased engagement in healthy habits like regular exercise, balanced diet, reducing drug and alcohol use etc.

 

Every once in a while, it can help to assess your relationships: Do you have enough social support? Could you use some new social contacts or social outlets?

You may decide to take some steps toward getting and giving social support. Here are some ideas for building your social support system:

    • Volunteer: Find a cause that is meaningful to you and get involved. This is a great way to meet other people who share similar interests and values.
    • Join a gym or fitness group: You can make friends whilst you exercise. Look at gyms in your area or check a local community centre.
    • Look online: Many good websites exist for people going through stressful times, such as chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce and other life changes.
    • Appreciate your friends and family: Take time to say thank you and let them know how important they are to you.
    • Give back: Be available for friends and family when they need support.

 

Taking the time to invest in your social support system can benefit not only your mental health, but also your physical health and quality of life. Whether you make new social connections or improve the relationships you already have, there are many rewards to growing your social support system.

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