When you’ve got your head down and you’re hustling hard to build your business, it’s easy to let your social wellness fall by the wayside. Maybe you skip dinner with your family to squeeze in “just one more hour” of work on your website. Perhaps you cancel the coffee you’d planned to catch up with an old friend in order to get ahead on tomorrow’s projects.
It’s tempting to neglect your relationships with other people in pursuit of business and financial success. Maintaining your relationships as an entrepreneur requires mindfulness and care.
After all, what’s the point of building a successful business if it comes at the expense of your connections with other people? To help maintain your connections, it’s valuable to understand the concept of social wellness, a term that mental health professionals use in order to evaluate an individual’s mental health within the broader context of society.
What Is Social Wellness?
Social wellness refers to the quality and strength of your relationships with others. It comes from having a positive social network. This network includes family, friends, professional contacts and even more casual acquaintances like the barista at your regular coffee place.
When your social wellness is high, it means that you have a rich social life and a variety of healthy personal relationships spanning romantic, social and professional contexts. Quantity doesn’t necessarily matter here — someone with fewer, deeper relationships could have a higher degree of social wellness than someone with a larger number of superficial or unhealthy relationships.
Why Is Social Wellness Important?
Social wellness is crucial for your overall well-being. As the NIH reports, higher levels of social wellness correlate with increased life expectancy and improved health. On the other hand, “loneliness and social isolation are linked to poorer health, depression, and increased risk of early death.”
Having a strong support network of people you trust is also important for overcoming adversity. When you have social support, it’s easier to deal with the hard times that accompany the death of a loved one, the failure of a business venture or the pain of an illness. And even in less extreme circumstances, a network of supportive people is helpful for getting through a bad day, a boring job or bouts of self-doubt.
4 Techniques to Cultivate Social Wellness
Now that you understand the importance of social wellness, let’s look at some ways you can increase it in your daily life. These aren’t quick fixes, but rather long-term strategies for building a life that is more rich and connected.
1. Prioritize Your Mental Health
When we discuss healthcare, we often focus only on conditions that we can clearly see and diagnose. This is a dangerous tendency, as it neglects the fact that mental illnesses are just as serious and debilitating as physical illnesses. Indeed, modern medical science reveals that the traditional dichotomy between the brain and the body is a false one: Our mental health is just as physical as any other part of our body.
Knowing this, don’t brush off your emotional health as unimportant, something you can just worry about “later” when you’ve achieved your goals. Not only is neglecting your mental health harmful to overall health and wellness, but it can also damage your ability to achieve those goals to begin with. Just as it’s difficult to perform at optimum levels if you have a physical illness, it is hard to do your best work if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.
Of course, just as in other forms of illness, there are degrees of severity when it comes to mental health issues. Feeling occasional mild depression or anxiety is something you can overcome through mindfulness, exercise and getting enough sleep, just as a cold or upset stomach are conditions you can treat at home using rest or over the counter medication.
In contrast, just as you would go to a doctor about serious chronic pain, so should you seek out professional help if you’re experiencing anxiety so severe it affects your ability to perform daily activities or depression so intense that you can’t get out of bed.
2. Build Healthy Relationships
Healthy relationships can mean the difference between a happy, fulfilled life and a dreary one that feels devoid of meaning. You need to surround yourself with the right people who boost your self-esteem and bring you joy while also challenging you to be a better person. These are the sort of people that will make up a support system to get you through adversity.
You should seek out these relationships in all spheres of your life, particularly in those where you can exercise a high degree of choice. You can’t always control who your co-workers or neighbors are, but you can decide on the friends you hang out with and the people you date or marry. If people are treating you poorly and reducing your quality of life, then you should stop spending time around them. Instead, seek out new people who treat you the way you deserve to be treated — your mental health will be better for it.
3. Maintain Relationship Balance
In addition to filling your life with healthy relationships, you need to maintain proper balance among the various relationships in your life. This keeps your life interesting and varied, while also ensuring that you don’t neglect certain relationships in the pursuit of others.
You should ensure balance among your relationships with the following three groups of people:
- Family members
If you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time with one group, it can hurt your relationships with the others. There’s no right amount of time, and it depends on your circumstances. The amount of time you spend with family will be wildly different if you have several children and a large extended family than if it’s just you and your spouse.
You should also make sure you don’t neglect one other personal relationship, one critical to self-care: the relationship you have with yourself. You need to have time alone to reflect and rest apart from the time you spend with others. Of course, how much time you need depends on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, but all of us need some time alone in order to maintain our mental health.
4. Practice Self-Disclosure
Self-disclosure is a term in psychology that refers to “a process of communication by which one person reveals information about himself or herself to another.” In more colloquial terms, we often call it opening up or getting deep.
This process is key to building the trust that forms the basis for meaningful relationships. If you’re struggling to forge deep connections that go beyond the surface, then self-disclosure is an important step to take.
We’re not saying you have to tell your deepest secrets to someone the first time you meet them; this can be inappropriate and make you come off as intense. But with time, self-disclosure is the route to creating the supportive relationships necessary for a happier, adversity-resistant life.
If you struggle with with self-disclosure, here are some things you can share:
Build Social Wellness for Life
A strong social network will lead to a life that is happier and more resilient, not to mention improves your health and longevity. Social wellness isn’t something you can achieve instantly, but it is something that’s worth the effort to pursue.