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Our ability to successfully interact and connect with the people in our lives can positively influence our emotions, behavior, mental outlook, and overall health in innumerable ways.

This is what is referred to as “Social Wellness”, and it involves engaging in and enjoying positive interactions with others, while also building and maintaining meaningful relationships throughout the course of our lives. Not only does this include our relationship with family, friends, partners, and colleagues, but also the connection we have with our communities and our environment.

Having relationships that are loving and supportive can have significant and positive impacts on our health and longevity. Being able to openly express our needs, feelings, thoughts and desires to those that we trust can bring more happiness and fulfillment into our lives.

Research shows that people with strong social connections frequently live longer, have healthier hearts, and respond better to stress. And people with strong social networks regularly have higher self-esteems and improved moods.

On the contrary, socially isolated people tend to have higher risk factors for health problems such as depression, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. In fact studies show that socially isolated people have a death rate 2 or 3 times higher than those who aren’t socially isolated.

We are naturally social beings. Each and every day we interact with others in myriad of ways, from meeting up with friends to ordering dinner from the server at our favorite restaurant. It’s important to develop skills to be able to interact and relate with people in a variety of settings, and to peacefully resolve conflicts when they come up.

Another important aspect of social wellness lies in our ability to create close relationships with friends and family. In order to build strong connections, here are a few recommendations:

  • Listen carefully. Really focus on what the person is saying to you in the moment rather than thinking about how you’re going to respond.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal-signs. It’s not always about what we say, but how we say it. This includes body language, eye contact, and tone of voice.
  • Encourage and empathize. When people feel heard and respected, they feel more comfortable about opening up about how they’re feeling.
  • Be open and honest. Expressing your true feelings involves being vulnerable to potential disappointment; however, long lasting and fulfilling relationships are always built on honesty and trust.
  • Show appreciation. Pay genuine compliments to the people in your life. When other people feel valued they’re more likely to give you their best.
  • Make commitments you can keep. Don’t over-commit yourself or set unrealistic expectations.

If you don’t have many close relationships in your life, work on building new ones while also nurturing current ones. Here are some suggested ideas and activities for growing your social network:

  • Call up a high school or university friend and have a good catch up
  • Join the gym or go to a fitness, yoga or dance class
  • Invite a coworker out for coffee or lunch
  • Schedule regular Skype (or phone) dates with your out-of-town friends and family
  • Find others who share common interests such as cooking, photography, scrapbooking, or running
  • Choose a cause you’re passionate about and volunteer

And remember, just like planting a garden, relationships require intention, nurturing, and time to grow!

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Elaine Brisebois
About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.