Healthy relationships are a vital component of health. Isolation—the lack of social contact—has been studied extensively. Researchers have found that isolation is linked to negative health impacts, including increased blood pressure; higher rates of colds and flu; heightened substance abuse; greater incidence of dementia and cognitive decline; higher mortality rates from breast cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Socially isolated people are more susceptible to illness and have a death rate two to three times higher than those who are not socially isolated. People who maintain their social network and support systems do better under stress. Approximately 20 percent of Americans feel lonely and isolated during their free time. Touching, stroking, and hugging can improve health. Laughter really is good medicine. Cholesterol levels go up when human companionship is lacking. Warm, close friendships cause higher levels of immunoglobulin A (an antibody that helps keep away respiratory infections and cavities). A strong social network can create a good mood and enhance self-esteem.
The social dimension of wellness encourages contributing to one’s human and physical environment to the common welfare of one’s community. Social Wellness emphasizes the interdependence with others and nature. It includes the pursuit of harmony in one’s family. As you travel a wellness path, you’ll become more aware of your importance in society as well as the impact you have on nature and your community. You’ll take an active part in improving our world by encouraging a healthy living environment and initiating better communication with those around you. You’ll actively seek ways to preserve the beauty and balance of nature along the pathway.
Social wellness is having positive interactions with and enjoying being with others. It is having comfort and ease during work and leisure situations and communicating feelings and needs to others. It involves developing and building close friendships and intimacy, practicing empathy and effective listening, caring for others and for the common good, and allowing others to care for you. It is recognizing the need for leisure and recreation, and budgeting time for those activities. As you proceed on your social wellness journey, you’ll discover many things. You’ll discover that you have the power to make willful choices to enhance personal relationships, important friendships, your community, the environment, and ultimately, the world. As you travel the wellness path, you’ll begin to believe that – socially.