July is “Social Wellness Month,” which can be defined differently between every individual. Ultimately, it revolves around nurturing ourselves and our relationships.
Social wellness is often something a lot of us don’t think about, but with everything this past year has thrown at us, it’s essential to maintain a healthy and robust social support system. In fact, scientists have shown that healthy relationships are key to our longevity.
The health of our social relationships can impact our overall wellness in the workplace. Ashlee Bost, a marriage and family therapist from Covenant Health, explains the importance of maintaining healthy relationships and support systems to better overall mood and self-esteem. Studies have shown that poor social wellness can lead to:
Strong social connections not only make people happier, but they can also play a role in increased work performance. Here are some ways to implement strong social relationships in the workplace:
In honor of Social Wellness Month, our team decided to share what social wellness means to us and what makes us feel like we most belong.
“Social wellness is the antidote to loneliness. Loneliness has reached record highs in the U.S., with 6% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel ‘serious loneliness.’
Social wellness means having a chosen group of people who offer the support, care, and follow-through you need to recover, succeed, and thrive. For me, social wellness is tied to having access to help and love from others in any situation and circumstance.
For me, belonging is about feeling part of something greater than yourself that values and needs you, and that you value and need back. For the longest time, I said it that place was the University of Chicago.
As I've gotten older, I've realized it's the relationships I formed there. Katina, my best friend, makes me feel belonging because I know that no matter what I do or say, she won't judge me and will see me in a better light than I see myself, but one that is grounded in reality. I feel part of something greater than myself in that relationship, namely I feel part of a friendship.
With Isaac, my husband, his tendency not to judge and willingness to support and listen makes me feel belonging, as well as his shared mission to build a better future and deep love of knowledge. All of those things, and our innate affinity, make me feel part of a partnership, one that is greater than both of us.
“Personally speaking, social wellness is the sense of wellbeing and attunement I feel when I've connected in a grounded and authentic way with someone for whom I carry a depth of affinity. Put more simply, it's a feeling of ease and joy in relation to others.
My closest friend and I share a lot of reciprocity, openness, and vulnerability. We respond to each other's ‘bids for connection’ (repurposing a lens from The Gottman Institute). We care about each other and, when we have differences, we listen to each other's perspectives and make repairs. Between us, there's a lot of respect for the many ways we're different, and there's a genuine interest in hearing about each other's experiences.
Going a step further, we hold space for the challenges each of us has faced in life, and we remind each other of how far we've come. We brainstorm our hardest problems together and are honest about inconsistencies we see in each other, leading to personal insight. We've been through many, many highs and lows of life. There's a feeling of security that we can count on each other—and we have for decades.
“To me, social wellness means how I am feeling about my current relationships. Are they in balance? Do I feel like I am getting and receiving equally? Do I feel fulfilled? Do I feel understood and accepted? And am I doing all of that in return for others?”
“To me, ‘social wellness’ means first showing up for myself so that I can fully show up for others. It's been a long journey of learning how to properly set boundaries, but it's probably the most important one I've been on. I've had to unlearn how to see this behavior as selfish and reframe it to focus on the ways it's beneficial.
Personally, when I take the time to be alone, look inward, and recharge, I've found that I'm in a much better place to be completely present for those I'm spending time with or those who need me. I'm not in my head thinking about the next thing. I'm able to really listen to what others are saying and give them the full attention they deserve. Or if it's a situation where I'm sitting quietly with someone, I'm able to just enjoy their presence and not think or worry about anything else.
My family and friends come before anything, and I'm fortunate to have people in my life that I know I can always feel supported by during the good times and the bad. With that said, the one driving factor in my life that has always made me feel belonging is music. There's always been a special sense of comfort for me that comes with picking up an instrument or connecting with others through sharing songs, albums, playlists, etc. that I truly can't explain.
“I think of social wellness as something that is integral to who I am. Since I was a child, I have always loved forming relationships with others and learning more about them. I enjoyed getting to know about their interests, their likes, and dislikes, and that was what social wellness meant to me at the time.
As an adult, however, I view social wellness a little differently. I see it as those genuine connections and relationships that I build with people that have deep, strong roots, but also the connection I have with myself. In order for me to form the relationships I want to form with others, I have to form a healthy relationship with myself. Although the realization of this concept took a long time, the more I connected with myself, the stronger my relationships with others were.
Since I moved around a few times as a child, I identify ‘belonging’ with people rather than physical locations. I am extremely thankful for the small community I have around me and it is through these people that the concept of belonging entered my life. Social wellness for me combines the connection I have with myself, the relationships I have with others, and the community that supports me.”
“It has been critically important in my life to find people I have positive connections with. While I have rarely expanded those connections into a larger community of social wellness, and ultimately a sense of belonging, I have always had at least one or two people who helped me to feel seen, heard, and valued. There have been pivotal moments along my journey in life defined by the presence of one such person at the right time.
It's hard for me to feel a sense of belonging in a group and in that sense, I wish I could say what would change that. But I quite literally have one-on-one connections that generate that feeling for me and it's hard to choose just one so I'll answer for each!
“Social wellness to me means the ability to build strong and healthy connections with those around me and myself. Growing up, I was constantly trying to make as many friends as possible, but I realized that the number of friends I had didn't matter as I got older.
What matters to me most now is the quality of the people I surround myself with. I feel like I have a very clear grasp of the people I want in my life and am very happy with the community I've chosen to be a part of. With that being said, I feel like I most belong with my friends from college. They truly are amazing people and I am not afraid to be who I am when I'm with them.”
Lisa Mei is a Marketing Intern at Ethos, helping to build and drive Ethos’ marketing strategy, especially as these initiatives relate to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.