4 Tips for Increasing your Social Wellness
Let’s talk Social wellness (no, not how many likes and follows you have online). Rather, it’s about how we interact with others, how we create, join, or maintain support systems and spaces where we feel belonged, safe, trusted, and happy.
Growing up, I was shy. I would hardly say a word at school. But I never thought much on it because I immersed myself fin books, got good grades, and figured I would be successful in life and make up for this shortcoming in other ways. It wasn’t until the first relationship I was in, which I was pitifully equipped to handle, or the first interview in my life, in front of a 4-star admiral, which I navigated with tremendous anxiety, butchering answers to common interview questions, that I began to realize how important social aspects were to my well being. To this day, I still consider myself an introvert and get awkward around people.
But it’s not just me that struggles with or underestimates social wellness. See our article Four Surprising Benefits of Social Wellness to see what the science says about how this aspect of our lives goes beyond just affecting relationship or career directions and can lead to physical and mental diseases, some even life-threatening.
Luckily, though, social wellness is a skill that we can all harness. We can learn to assert ourselves and our uniqueness while not giving into peer pressure or social roles; manage personal and professional dynamics and conflict; speak and write better; listen and put ourselves in others’ shoes; and overall relate to ourselves and others in healthy, meaningful, and respectful ways.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned on how to develop social wellness:
1) Plan to make it happen
Overcoming years of my lone-wolf mentality didn’t happen overnight. I first had to want to connect with others. I had just the push I needed with my early and painful social encounters to know I had to adapt socially if I wanted to succeed in this world. Next, I proactively made it a point to get practice, starting slowly with small groups I was comfortable in, and working up to large gatherings. This plan is still in progress. I have attended some expos and networking events for the past two years, but still get very nervous and exhausted after an evening or day. But I listen to my body and know that this is not a sprint but a marathon.
2) Connection doesn’t always mean being surrounded by Lots of People
One of the first conceptions I had about how to get more social was to attend lots of parties or constantly go out with friends on bar runs. While it’s true I could only get better with practice, I was setting myself up for failure by not being true to myself and taking things to extremes too fast. These were not my scenes. In fact, I tended to clam up even more in these environments than usual.
I am more comfortable occasionally hanging out with a few close friends, doing a book review, expressing thoughts and feelings on subjects or authors. I love hearing others’ stories and concepts, too. I also enjoy coming together with some people to play a game or a sport.
On the one hand, starting small like this and having something other than just talking for talking sake to focus one, lessened my anxiety.
On the other hand, giving myself alone between these events time to recharge helped to respect my need to recharge and ultimately led me to more sustainable build meaningful social habits.
I now try to simulate such environments in bigger circles like networking events, where I focus on keeping the subjects related to the work of others’ that I find intriguing.
3) Keep in touch with Family
I find setting aside weekly time for engaging with my parents, even though I now live half-way around the world from them, helps me feel grounded and grateful. I witnessed how some of my friends growing up did not have a complete or functional family and how that affected them. I was blessed with loving, supporting parents, and my video time with them, or occasional visits, constantly reminds me of how cool they are and how they have shaped me into the person I am today. Keeping up with their stories and adventures is also great, as we can laugh and cry together, and feel family bonding. I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.
4. Use Social Media Carefully
Whenever scrolling through my Facebook feed, I feel connected to my friends and family. I am updated about what’s going on in their lives and generally feel glad. It is a great platform to engage in those small groups I am comfortable with, debating a topic surrounding a shared article, for instance. But just as in real life, taking breaks is crucial for recharging. I used to spend hours mindlessly scrolling, seeing news headlines and political debates that riled me up. What I didn’t consider is the drain such activity had on my days’ productivity, after the fact. How we use social media matter. Our article Using Social Media: Is it Healthy?discusses more this distinction.
In using these tips, I have developed a greater appreciation for social wellness in my own life. What started as a need to thrive in the world and not repeat my past mistakes has quickly been developing into a fun and exciting process where I learn more about myself and others and am becoming a more well-rounded and balanced person every day.
Were these tips useful to you? What have you learned on your own social wellness journey? Let me know in the comments below.