Our “Journey to a Healthier You” series kicked off this January with a look at the difference between health and wellness. Wellness is a multidimensional, holistic, evolving state and process of achieving your full potential. It is subjective, personalized, individual, cultural and situational. Last month introduced physical wellness and how to follow health-enhancing habits.
This month, we examine social wellness. What is social wellness?
Social wellness is developing and maintaining positive, healthy relationships with others, contributing to the communities where you live, learn, work and play, and valuing the environment.
We are not alone in this world. It’s nearly impossible to go a day without encountering another person. Family members. Friends. Coworkers. Members of community organizations. Service industry workers. Childcare and eldercare providers.
You’re likely to come in contact with some or all of these people on a daily basis, either in person or over the phone, via email or online.
These interactions, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, contribute to your social wellness. And in social situations, we usually get out what we put in. I witnessed an example during a recent interaction at the grocery store. An employee was restocking bananas. A customer, who was about to grab a bunch of bananas, paused and asked the employee, “How are you today?” The employee, deeply appreciative, replied “I’m good, thank you so much for asking.” The employee then found a perfectly ripe bunch of bananas and handed them to the customer.
Simple acts of kindness to people you come in contact with, whether you know them well or they are complete strangers, can do wonders for both their day and yours. Here are some ways to improve your social wellness:
- Greet people with a “hello,” smile, handshake or hug.
- Ask a loved one or friend how their day is going or call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while – it shows you care about them and their wellbeing.
- Practice common courtesy – hold the door open for people, say “bless you” if someone sneezes and remember the manners you were taught as a child.
- Get involved with community organizations you believe in that help people who are less fortunate.
- Respect the world around you and clean up after yourself; try to reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Cultivate close friendships – this takes time and dedication from all parties involved.
When interacting with others, try to:
- Be patient, compassionate and understanding.
- Practice active listening.
- Follow healthy conflict resolution.
- Communicate effectively.
- Recognize what you can and can’t control in your personal or professional relationships.
- Be aware of your own limitations.
While social wellness focuses on the people and things around you, your level of social wellness has a direct impact on other dimensions of wellness. Do the people you spend time with encourage you to engage in activities that are helpful or harmful to your health? Do you come away from interactions with close friends enthusiastic or exhausted? Does your support system build you up or tear you down? Are you encouraging others to live their best self, and do they encourage you to do the same?
Now is a good time to reflect on your relationships and determine which are worth the effort and which may not be.
Future articles in the “Journey to a Healthier You” series will explore healthy relationships and positive social interactions in greater detail.
[Emily Smith is the Health Promotion Division’s Wellness Coordinator.]