The Importance of Social Wellness at Any Age
Social wellness packs a lot of power: not only can it keep you happy, engaged, confident and physically active, it can help you overcome grief. If you recently lost a loved one or your aging parent has lost a spouse to a long-term illness, you know just how pervasive grief can be. The last thing you may want to do at first is get social. But studies show that social wellness is vital at any age and any time, particularly as we age and start losing the people we love. One path to strong social wellness is to take part in bereavement services such as support groups in Alameda County.
July is Social Wellness Month
July just happens to be Social Wellness Month, a great time to step back and consider the connections you have made and will make, as well as how you can help your aging loved ones stay social as well. In a nutshell, social wellness includes the interactions we have with those around us. It involves many factors, from using good communication skills to respecting yourself and others to nurturing a support system of family and friends. Social wellness is just one of the eight dimensions of wellness which range from emotional and intellectual to physical and spiritual. All of the wellness dimensions overlap to result in rich environments for living, points out the International Council on Active Aging.
Having a rich social life is important at any age, but particularly important for the elderly. They are losing spouses, friends, siblings and other loved ones at a rapid rate, which often leaves them isolated and alone. Add to that any conditions or illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s and this can rob a person of their social wellness component. Once social wellness starts eroding, so too do other components, such as physical health. Exercise is one big part of that, proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in seniors, as well as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, breast cancer and color cancer, says the National Institute on Aging. In addition, it can help to reduce falls.
Getting the Support You Need
Having a rich social life is also important when at a crossroads in life, such as when facing the loss of a loved one. In our grief, we often step back and isolate ourselves from others, when in fact we should be migrating toward people for support. Joining a support group, letting a friend take you out for lunch, taking in a ball game…these are important, even though they’re the last things you may want to do in your time of grief. When you surround yourself with others, particularly those who have gone through what you have, this brings you together on common ground for a greater understanding.
Support groups, for example, join people together who have gone through similar experiences, whether that is cancer, a chronic medical condition, bereavement or caregiving, says the Mayo Clinic. This shared setting gives people the opportunity to share their experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or first-hand information about treatments or diseases.
How to Improve Social Wellness
Having trouble getting out there? Heed these tips to boosting your social wellness, or that of a loved one going through a tough time.
- Talk to a friend. Call or visit a friend, maybe one you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Engaging in a positive interaction starts with truly listening to them and finding out what is important to them. What issues are they facing? Then share yours.
- Know what you need. Try to understand your own personal needs, then find people who will nurture those needs. At the same time, help others with theirs. Surround yourself with people who show support for your needs. Stay away from toxic people who drain you.
- Let others care for you. It can be very hard to admit when we can’t do it all on our own. When you need help with something (going to the grocery store, having someone pick up your kid from sports or helping with household chores), let others pick up the slack. They want to help you but often aren’t sure how they can. Giving them a task will make them feel good and you in turn will get a much-needed break. Just don’t be afraid to reach out.
- Develop new friendships. You are never too old to make a new friend. Engage with someone new, form new bonds. Not only does social interaction improve your mood, it can enhance your self-esteem. Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Relax. Finding inner peace starts with relaxation. Get enough sleep and rest when you need to. This will help you lead an active life because you’ll be more alert and healthy.