Our social health is another one of the dimensions of health that work together to support our overall wellbeing. This dimension is actually one of the three pillars of the World Health Organisation’s definition of health that was constructed all the way back in 1948, and has stayed as a key dimension of health today.
“a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmary”World Health Organisation Definition of health
Our social dimension of health refers to:
Our ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships, behave appropriately within them and maintain socially acceptable standards, including within the community as a whole.
When someone is seen to be “socially healthy”, it can include some of the following aspects:
- positive interpersonal skills
- fostering a strong support network
- successfully adapting in social situations
- taking an active part in your community
- living in harmony with others and treating people with respect
- effectively balancing your social and personal time
- caring about others and having them care about you
- building and maintaining those healthy relationships
Why is our social health important?
It is well known that overall, human beings are social creatures. We are required to interact with people in a variety of ways nearly every day. Maintaining connections and developing relationships are essential to our overall health (can read more detail about the benefits of strong connections in this previous blog post: Strengthening Connections). When we don’t have a strong social system, it can impact on many different aspects of our health and wellbeing. Social isolation and loneliness can have detrimental effects on our mental health in particular.
By enhancing our social health, there can be direct benefits to our mental health such as:
- Improved mood
- Increased self-esteem and self-confidence
- Decreased risk of depression and anxiety
- Promotes a sense of belonging and connectedness
How do we improve our social health?
Self Care. This is the most important way that we can improve our social health. Before we can build and maintain relationships with others, we need to build and maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves. When you love and respect yourself, you are more inclined to become more confident and have a boost in your mood. Self care can take on many forms including:
- ensuring you have a healthy lifestyle (eat well, be physically active, get enough sleep, remove harmful habits)
- taking time for yourself and doing things that you enjoy
- practising mindfulness and gratitude
Communication Skills. Having poor communication skills can make it difficult to build and maintain those relationships that are so important to our social health. These are skills that we can develop and build upon by practising the following:
- maintaining eye contact when in conversation
- being an active listener – give people time to talk without interrupting
- being aware of your body language – show that you are interested
- developing thoughtful responses
Foster your relationships. If we don’t work on our relationships, they can, over time, fade away. Both parties need to ensure that they are fostering the development and maintenance of the relationship. Some of the following can help in this department:
- being attentive and listening
- removing criticism and blame
- sticking to commitments
- showing your appreciation
When we have good social health, it lets us be able to develop boundaries that can enhance communication and trust. It can also help our conflict management skills and support our ability to build emotional resilience (the ability to adapt to stressful situations). These aspects are key within any kind of relationship and being a thoughtful and respected member of the community.