The Puzzle Piece Series focuses on the different facets that make us human and how to take care of them. This week we will be looking at our social well-being. I am by no means an expert, in fact quite the opposite. Rather, I am simply an observer, curious about people and the way people think, ask a lot of questions and listen often. To research for this series I reflected on my own ideas and beliefs then challenged them by talking to lots of different people. I tried to include a range of ages, genders and backgrounds so that I had a variety of perspectives and viewpoints.
Social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being are all closely interlinked as they make up who we are as individuals, so each aspect needs recognising within ourselves and nurturing
Social well-being definition
The World Health Organisation defines social well-being as:
“to feel a sense of belonging and social inclusion; a connected person is a supported person in society. lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions, and beliefs are all important for our social well-being and quality of life.”
What does social well-being look like?
Social well-being can involve a person’s relationships with others as well as how someone communicates, interacts and socialises with others. Humans are generally social creatures that thrive on interactions with others, a need to be social is built into our being. However, we need to be able to co-exist peacefully. Sometimes this means being able to pull our heads in when necessary. Avoiding confrontation unless necessary is something we learn with time. Well most of us anyway..
We have to learn to see the differences in others and try to respect them, although, sometimes this is hard. Everyone has their own core set of values and beliefs and they may not always match your own. I find that the best conversations you can have will challenge you and open your mind to other peoples perspectives.
Relationships and social well-being
Relationships make up a big part of our social selves. These can take different forms from friendships, professional relationships, significant others, to acquaintances. Most of us interact with people daily throughout our regular lives and building relationships is a default of that.
There are different types of friendships including; longtime friends, work friends, acquaintances, hobby friends, drinking friends, opposite-sex friends, animal friends, family, old friends and new friends. Often, some friends cross multiple areas. Different types of friends feed different parts of us and not one person can fulfil all our social needs. It’s not very healthy to expect this of someone.
Some friendships last a long time (my bestie and I have been friends for nearly 30 years), even as we change and grow. Others for only a season. A friendship season, if you will. Those seasons last only a short time and fulfil a need in that time. Just as the changing seasons of weather, each fulfil their purpose for their season then make way for the next one. We constantly evolve, change and grow. Naturally, we can grow, move on or drift apart from someone who we used to be close to. Even though it is sad at the time, life happens.
We often present different parts of our selves to different people. There are the friends that we can show our entire, unclassy, bed hair, no make-up selves to. Others we tend to show only a part of to, especially in the beginning stages of friendship. We protect a part of our selves until we feel comfortable inviting people into our lives. Then we can show them our unashamedly whole beings (including bed hair). Sometimes we have a side that fronts, it’s not fake, just parts that we want for ourselves and those closest to us. It allows us to guard ourselves against those that want to create drama or don’t have our best interests at heart.
Acquaintances can include work colleagues, the lady down the road who you exchange small talk with and the shop assistant whose checkout you frequent. You get to know little tidbits about their lives and them yours on a surface level. But, all these little tidbits add up. I remember when my children were teeny, I used to go to the supermarket just so I could talk to another adult. Being on your own all day is very lonely.
Some ways friendships can help take care of our social well-being
- Talking in person or even online can help our social well-being. Just a simple message in the morning to wish someone a happy day can brighten up their spirits. Conversations don’t always have to be deep and meaningful. Though, those are great as well. Deep and meaningful conversations allow you to connect with someone on a deeper level.
- Laughing. Laughing is good for the soul. Do you have that good friend that you just look at and then burst into laughter with? That you have inside jokes that no one else understands? They are wonderful friends to keep around.
- Doing something with a friend you both enjoy. My best friend and I have a weekly lunch date then we fall asleep to Game of Thrones after eating our weight in chocolate on the couch. We started from season 1 about 4 months ago and have only made it to about three episodes into season 2 even though we often play two or three episodes in an afternoon. We have to keep rewatching episodes we’ve fallen asleep to. But to be honest, it’s not the TV that we are terribly interested in. It’s the fact that we are doing something together.
How can we take care of our social well-being?
Taking care of our social selves is a balancing act that is sometimes hard to maintain. As an introvert myself, I find that if I am too social I feel drained and overwhelmed. There are always people at our fingertips in this day in age through social media, text, email and smartphones. We are living in an increasingly social world which isn’t always a good thing.
It is good being able to reach out to people whenever the need takes us but it is equally as important to be comfortable to be on our own. Alone time to be quiet, to breathe. I think this becomes easier as we get older. When I was younger (ha! Coz 32 is ancient!) I used to hate being on my own. I didn’t enjoy my own company. Now though, I have learned to enjoy it. Truth be told, I actually crave it when I have been around people for too long. I have learned the balance that works for me personally to look after my social well-being. To speak up and ask for space if needed. It differs from person to person, depending on how introverted or extroverted you are.
A learning curve we take as we grow is to become wiser about who to share your life with. I’m sure we have all had fake friends and friends that suck us dry over the years. You know, those friends that take but never give? Yup, them. As we get older our circle of friends tends to decrease to just those we know we can trust. Sometimes walls are built and only the determined can break them down. Chipping away day by day as you get to know each other better.
Tips and tricks to take care of our social well-being (in a handy infographic so you can pin for later 😉 isn’t that nice?)
What happens when you don’t look after your social well-being?
Not looking after our social selves can result in a spectrum of feelings from feeling overwhelmed to feeling isolated and lonely. This is where that happy medium balance talked about earlier can come into play.
It can be emotionally and physically draining when you don’t take care of your social well-being properly. This could be because you are emotionally drained from that fake friend who constantly takes, it could be because you are constantly surrounded by a sea of people when all you want is a calm patch to float on for a while. Either way, it is important to recognise WHY you are feeling drained so you can rectify this.
How social we are can often depend on our moods. For me, when depression kicks in I isolate myself which isn’t always a good thing, this is when I need to be around my support network. Not all the time but some of the time just to help relieve the funk I’m sitting in. Sometimes, bizarrely, my depression is a result of being too social. Again it is important for me to recognise whether my depression is a result of being too social or a result of isolating myself.
How does our social well-being link to the rest of our puzzle?
Even though our social well-being often stems from external factors, it can affect our internal self either positively or negatively. Have you ever felt emotional because of a social interaction? Felt a whole lot better after digesting something you have been mulling over in your head on your own then getting it off your chest with a good friend?
I am one of those people that suffer from social anxiety as well. Points in my life have been worse than others. I just don’t feel comfortable around big crowds and this affects my emotional well-being. That balance thing comes out again.
In this series, I have taken the term ‘mental well-being’ to mean our intellectual selves. I am covering mental health under emotional well-being.
Social interactions can challenge us, can help us to see different perspectives and viewpoints. Others can teach us so much about the world we live in and the people we share it with. We can bounce ideas off each other, learn and grow. To me, that is one of the best things about being human. To learn, to satisfy my curiosity, to question and to grow. Those are the gifts that social interactions can give us.
This series I have taken physical well-being to mean more than just our looks, it is how we feel inside and out and how we take care of the physical side of ourselves.
Obviously, we all like to look and feel our best. Do you dress differently when you are going out with a friend than you do when you are lazing at home in front of the telly all day? I bet you $10 you do! That is one way social can influence our physical. Also having a walking buddy or a workout buddy can help our motivation much more than if we only had to be accountable to ourselves. We are generally ok with failing ourselves but are less inclined to want to let down someone else.
Spiritual well-being is a very personal subject, everyone has their own beliefs. I do not claim to be an expert or want to belittle anyone’s beliefs. Everyone’s views are valid and important.
Spiritual well-being is more of an internal well-being. Peace with your inner self will carry over to your social self. If you feel at peace within your inner self then you are more likely to have positive social interactions with others. Having friendships with those that have similar beliefs to you (such as the same church) will enhance your own beliefs and help you to form a more meaningful connection to that person.
This post has taken me much longer to complete than I originally thought. Part of that is everyday life got in the way, but really that is just an excuse. I found time to waste on Instagram, waste on napping on the couch and found time to drink copious amounts of tea under my blanket. This series has challenged me (in a good way). I have thoroughly enjoyed taking everyone’s differing viewpoints and trying to merge them into one cohesive article.
What are your thoughts on looking after your social well-being?
How do you take care of that part of yourself?
What tips and tricks would you add?
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- Physical well-being puzzle piece
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