By Danielle Terpstra, MS, EP-C, Wellness Consultant, AllOne Health
One dimension of wellness that has been largely neglected in our digital era is social wellness. The powerful impact of healthy relationships on our health is well-supported in the literature. In fact, research has shown the health risks of social isolation to be comparable to those of obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking cigarettes.
If social isolation is so harmful, how can social connection impact health? The evidence suggests people who have healthy relationships and strong social networks respond better to stress. As a result, the endocrine, cardiovascular, and immune systems function better. With improvements in each system, people experience better cognitive functioning, reduced anxiety, improved energy, and a better chance at fighting off sickness.
There are many ways to improve your social well-being, and intentional work on it may be more important now than ever. Consider the following strategies:
- Determine which relationship(s) in your life are most important to you and find one way you can nurture these relationships each week.
- Prioritize honesty in your relationships. Speaking the truth in love holds a mutual benefit for you and your loved one.
- Let go of comparison. It is said to be the thief of joy, and for good reason. Celebrate yourself and your loved ones and notice the impact it has on the health of your relationships.
- Discover ways to be active with your loved ones. The “happy hormones” released when you are physically moving can be capitalized on to create a joyful social experience. Try group fitness classes, hikes, dances, or walking meetings.
- Seek out ways to meet people who have shared interests. Volunteering, religious gatherings, dog parks (if you are a dog owner), and exercise groups are all great opportunities to meet people.
- If you struggle with social anxiety and the above options sound daunting, consider talking with a professional to offer support. You might also consider support with natural remedies like aromatherapy, herbal support, cold water therapy, and breathwork.