Social Wellness

Social Wellness 

Social wellness refers to our ability to relate to others, establish meaningful connections, and foster a sense of belonging. Relationships are at the core of the human experience. 

Nurturing our social wellness leads to improved mental health, longevity, happiness, and an overall greater quality of life. This page is all about social wellness and we’ll explore why social connections matter, signs you may lack social wellness, and actionable steps to improve it. 

What is Social Wellness? 

Social wellness encompasses our social health and satisfaction with relationships. The American Council on Exercise notes social wellness involves[1]

  • Developing intimacy and close friendships 
  • Finding a sense of belonging and connection 
  • Having a well-developed support network 
  • Making a positive contribution to your community 
  • Ability to communicate feelings and needs effectively 
  • Healthy management of conflict 
  • Enriching others through positive interactions 

We’re wired for social connection. Forming bonds starts early, with the parent-child relationship. As we mature, peer relationships become central to our social wellness. Supportive social networks - at home, work, and in leisure pursuits - are key throughout life. 

Why Are Social Connections Vital? 

Meaningful relationships provide many benefits: 

  • Improved mental health. Social support relieves stress and helps combat issues like anxiety or depression[2]. Close friends give us joy and purpose. 
  • Increased longevity. Research shows poor social connections raise mortality risk by up to 50% - comparable to smoking[3]. Social ties may directly impact health. 
  • Greater resilience. Having the support of loved ones makes it easier to cope with life’s inevitable challenges and setbacks. 
  • A sense of belonging. Friends and community provide us with emotional security and an identity. This feeling of belonging satisfies a fundamental human need. 
  • Learning and growth. Our closest bonds challenge us to grow and become better people. Friends reflect back our strengths and weaknesses.
  • Help in times of need. Our support network lends a hand when we’re dealing with hardship or need practical assistance. 
  • More happiness. Studies consistently link healthy social relationships with increased happiness and life satisfaction[4]. Our mood improves when spending time with loved ones. 

The takeaway is that nurturing social wellness pays dividends across nearly every facet of life. Prioritizing relationships provides both protection in hard times and opportunities for growth. 

Signs Your Social Wellness May Need Improvement

How can you tell if your social health could use a boost? Consider if you: 

  • Have few close friends or confidants 
  • Struggle to make new friends and connect with others 
  • Feel lonely or cut off from those around you 
  • Don't belong to any social groups or communities 
  • Have trouble communicating openly in relationships 
  • Fight often with loved ones and struggle managing conflict 
  • Isolate yourself and avoid social events 
  • Don't feel you can rely on others for support 
  • Don't feel engaged in your romantic relationship (if applicable) 
  • Derive little meaning from your connections 

Having just one or two of these issues occasionally doesn't necessarily indicate a problem. But if you notice several signs persisting over time, improving your social wellness should become a priority. 

8 Ways to Improve Your Social Wellness 

The good news is many simple, positive steps can help boost social health. Here are 8 evidence-based ways to improve your social wellness

Nurture Your Current Relationships 

Strengthening existing ties is the cornerstone of social wellness. Make time for loved ones consistently - not just when it's convenient. Open up, express appreciation, listen, and find ways to show you care. Shared positive experiences build intimacy. 

Widen Your Social Circle 

A diverse social network provides more support. Try making new friends through hobbies, classes, volunteering, work connections, or neighborhood groups. Look for those with common interests. The more social clusters you belong to, the better.

Join Groups That Align With Your Values 

Pursue communities - formal or informal - that reflect causes or activities you care about. This creates a sense of purpose. Or start a new group yourself! Having shared values bonds members. 

Improve Your Communication Skills 

Strengthening social skills like listening closely, asserting needs calmly, showing empathy, and managing conflict constructively improves social wellness. Classes and books on relationship skills can help. 

Know Your Relationship Needs 

Consider what nourishes you socially - more friends, more community involvement, more couple time? Communicate needs openly so those close to you can provide the support you seek. 

Limit Digital Interactions 

Online relationships are great - but they don't replace in-person interaction. Make room for activities that allow genuine face-to-face bonding away from digital distraction. 

Address Mental Health Barriers 

Conditions like serious social anxiety, depression, or paranoia understandably make socializing challenging. Seek professional help to identify and manage barriers to connecting. 

Model the Change You Want to See 

Set the tone for the relationships you want by being the kind of friend or partner you wish to attract. Reach out, listen well, and share yourself authentically. 

Focus on small positive steps forward vs. drastic overnight changes. Over time, choosing to make social wellness a priority will help you build a nourishing web of human connection. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Wellness

How many close friendships do we need for optimal social wellness? 

There's no magic number - the quality of relationships matters more than quantity. Many experts recommend having around 5 core intimate relationships - including friendships and romantic partnership. But even 1-2 truly close bonds can provide great social support.

What's the difference between being lonely vs being alone? 

Loneliness involves painful feelings of isolation and lack of belonging, even when around others. Solitude refers simply to spending time alone by choice. Time alone can be rejuvenating if you don't feel lonely. Occasional loneliness is normal, but chronic loneliness indicates poor social wellness. 

What are signs a relationship may be unhealthy? 

Watch for patterns like excessive criticism, controlling behavior, emotional abuse, lack of respect for boundaries, dishonesty, or physical aggression. On-off relationships and codependency are also unhealthy patterns. Toxic relationships should be addressed or ended. 

How can I make new friends as an adult? 

Look for friends with common interests by joining hobby groups, taking classes, using Meetups, bonding with coworkers, volunteering, or making neighborhood connections. Deepen new bonds by meeting consistently, opening up, and making quality time for each other. It takes effort but it's worthwhile. 

How do I deal with friends who drain my energy? 

Set clear boundaries for draining friends - limit visiting time, refuse excessive favors, and control conversation topics. Boost positivity by spending more time with nourishing friends who energize you. You may also need to place certain friendships on hold if toxicity persists. 

Why is expressing affection important in relationships? 

Expressing affection boosts intimacy. Consistent kind words, hugs, thoughtfulness, and daily check-ins make loved ones feel cared for. Research links affection to benefits like lower stress, reduced illness, better sleep, and longevity. Make it a habit. 

Should I end a friendship if we've grown apart? 

Not necessarily. It's normal for some friendships to wax and wane over time as lives evolve. Periodic catch-up is fine. But if you've truly become incompatible or no longer enjoy their company, it may be healthier to let go. Prioritize friends who align with who you are today. 

How can I make friends if I'm shy and introverted? 

Play to your strengths as an introvert. Form connections through smaller get-togethers vs. big noisy parties. Bond through low-key activities or one-on-one. Writing emails or letters allows you to communicate comfortably. And give new friendships time to blossom at a gradual pace.

What are tips for strengthening a long-term romantic relationship? 

Keep courting each other through regular date nights, shared activities, and romantic gestures. Maintain intimacy through affection and communication. Respect each other's independence too. Shared experiences, humor, compromise, and supporting each other's growth all help maintain bonds. 

In Summary 

Meaningful social connections keep us happy, healthy, and resilient. But nurturing relationships requires effort - they won't maintain themselves. By making social wellness a priority, we can all cultivate a web of love and support to get us through life's journey. What small step will you take today to strengthen your social well-being? The rewards are priceless. 


[1] Lascano, Kacie. "Review: American Council on Exercise (ACE)." Gymdesk Library, Gyms/ Coaching, Instruction & Training, 5 May 2023. 

[2] Teo, A. R., Choi, H., & Valenstein, M. (2013). Social relationships and depression: ten-year follow-up from a nationally representative study. PloS one, 8(4), e62396. 

[3] Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227-237. 

[4] Schutter, Natasja et al. “Loneliness, social network size and mortality in older adults: a meta-analysis.” European Journal of Ageing vol. 19,4 1057-1076. 21 Nov. 2022, doi:10.1007/s10433-022-00740-z