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Social Wellness for Women in 10 Easy Steps

Social Wellness for Women in 10 Easy Steps

Written by Jonathan Bailor, CEO SANESolution & Reviewed by Dr. Matthew Olesiak, MD Chief Medical Director, SANESolution

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What is Social Wellness?

Social wellness refers to the ability to find and cultivate meaningful and supportive relationships with friends, family, colleagues, supervisors, and peers. 

Why is Social Wellness Important?

We are social creatures and remain so from birth until death. From prehistoric times humans and other primates lived, hunted, and traveled together in social groups. Though there are many theories why early humans formed social groups, the most probable reason is safety in numbers. Quite simply, they needed the group to help ensure survival. (1) 

This is still true today. Though we may not need close personal relationships for physical survival, we most definitely need them for emotional and mental survival. Indeed, research suggests that our health depends upon having a supportive social network.

Health Benefits of Having Social Support 

During the past few decades, researchers have delved into the potential health benefits of social wellness. What they discovered is fascinating. It turns out there are many health benefits of having social relationships.

Research suggests that low social wellness may increase the risk of the following mental and physical health conditions: 

  • High blood pressure (2)
  • Anxiety (3)
  • Depression (4)
  • Suicide (5)
  • Heart disease (6)
  • Stroke (7) 
  • And more

 

In addition, social isolation and sometimes low-quality social relationships have been identified as independent risk factors for all-cause mortality. (8)

 

The Healing Power of Girlfriends

Though both sexes need social interactions and a positive social network, women tend to thrive on solid relationships with their closest girlfriends.

For example, in a recent survey of 2,000 American women, 56% said they would rather be trapped in quarantine with their closest girlfriends over a male romantic partner…and this includes 60% of women between the ages of 24 and 39. In addition, a whopping 89% of respondents said their female friends were important to them. (9) 

Scientific research backs this up and may also partially explain the reason female-to-female friendships are so meaningful.

According to a research study led by Georgia State University, females find their same-sex friendships to be more rewarding than males. The reason? Females are more “sensitive to the rewarding actions of oxytocin than males.” (10)

Oxytocin is a potent hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is considered the “love hormone; it bonds mother and child and plays a crucial role in forming sexual attachments. But research shows it is also vital in developing social relationships. 

In a study, Stanford University scientists discovered that positive social interactions cause a flood of oxytocin into the brain’s ventral tegmental area, a region that contains dopamine and serotonin receptors. (Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that make us feel good; thus, they are part of the brain’s “reward system”. ) (11)

The results of this research probably won’t surprise most women. After all, close female friends are the ones with whom they confide their deepest secrets.  They have similar experiences and know each other inside and out.  Their girlfriends, as many women attest, are a huge part of their happiness.

 

How Do You Achieve Social Wellness?

For most people, achieving social wellness is a work-in-progress that presents numerous opportunities to learn and grow in establishing, cultivating, and maintaining positive relationships with others. Here are ten tips you can use today to improve your social wellness.

 

10 Tips to Improve Your Social Wellness

Analyze your social needs. You cannot fulfill your social needs unless you know what they are, so you’ll need to take an inventory of your social wellness. What parts of your social life do you enjoy? What elements need improvement? For example, if you have fulfilling relationships with colleagues but few close friendships outside of work, this may be an area that needs improvement. 

Take care of yourself. It is challenging to cultivate positive relationships if you don’t feel well mentally, physically, and spiritually. So, be sure to treat yourself as the high-quality person you are! Eat a healthy diet, paying particular attention to nutrition. Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Fit physical activity into your day, even if it’s just taking a few leisurely walks around the block. Breathing in the fresh air will do wonders for your health and your spirit, too!

Give and accept appreciation. Telling others how much you value them is a great way to develop and maintain relationships. People need to feel that they’re special to you. But it’s equally important that you accept praise from others. Compliments not only make you feel good, but it means that you are freely receiving the other person’s appreciation of you, which makes them feel good. It’s a win-win situation! 

Learn to communicate effectively. Being able to share your needs in a non-confrontational manner is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships. This involves being assertive, not aggressive, which is especially important for conflict management.  The difference? An assertive person voices opinions in a way that does not disrespect others. By contrast, an aggressive person verbally attacks others to obtain a goal. The latter will not foster healthy relationships.

Set healthy boundaries. According to Psychology Today, “Boundaries can be defined as the limits we set with other people, which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior towards us.” (12) Setting healthy boundaries is vital to having healthy relationships. Otherwise, you will often feel unappreciated, and anger and resentment will inevitably set in.

Join a group. One of the best ways to make new friends is to join a group. There is a group for nearly every interest. Book clubs. Movie groups. Dinner groups. Business networking. The website Meetup has thousands of events happening every day in local communities.

Keep in touch with friends and family. Call, text, or visit friends and family regularly and spend quality time with them. Ask a friend to join you for coffee. Invite your cousin to a movie. Have an annual get-together for your closest friends.

Volunteer. Giving back to others is a great way to feel good about yourself and to develop empathy. It’s also an excellent way to find friends with similar interests. If you’re looking for a new career field, volunteering may help you find that ideal job. To find opportunities, try VolunteerMatch or JustServe.

Use technology. If you do not enjoy meeting people face-to-face (or simply don’t have the time to go out), internet technology can be invaluable. Use it to register for one or more social media platforms, sign up for an online dating service, or find an online forum that caters to your interest.

Get a pet. Pets make great companions and are an excellent way to relieve stress. According to the National Institute of Health, “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

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References

1- Pennisi E. How Humans Became Social. Science. Nov. 9, 2011. Accessed Aug 28, 2021. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/11/how-humans-became-social

2- Piferi RL, Lawler KA. Social support and ambulatory blood pressure: an examination of both receiving and giving. Int J Psychophysiol. 2006 Nov;62(2):328-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2006.06.002. Epub 2006 Aug 14. PMID: 16905215.

3- Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40.

4- Seabrook EM, Kern ML, Rickard NS. Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review. JMIR Ment Health. 2016;3(4):e50. Published 2016 Nov 23. doi:10.2196/mental.5842

5- Calati R, Ferrari C, Brittner M, Oasi O, Olié E, Carvalho AF, Courtet P. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors and social isolation: A narrative review of the literature. J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 15;245:653-667. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.11.022. Epub 2018 Nov 7. PMID: 30445391.

6- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663external icon.

7- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663external icon.

8- House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D. Social relationships and health. Science. 1988 Jul 29;241(4865):540-5. doi: 10.1126/science.3399889. PMID: 3399889.

9- People Staff. Most Women in the U.S. Would Rather Quarantine with Female Friends Than Their Partners, Survey Finds. People. Accessed Aug 29, 2021. https://people.com/human-interest/most-women-in-the-u-s-would-rather-quarantine-with-female-friends-than-their-partners-survey-finds/

10- Georgia State University. “Females find social interactions to be more rewarding than males, study reveals.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190130175604.htm>.

11- Hung L, Neuner S, Polepalli JS, Beier KT, Wright M, Walsh JJ, Lewis EM, Luo L, Deisseroth K, Dolen G, Malenka RC. Gating of social reward by oxytocin in the ventral tegmental area. Science. Sep 29, 2017. Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1406-1411. DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4994

12- Schrader J. 4 Ways to Set and Keep Your Personal Boundaries. Aug 1, 2016. Accessed Aug 30, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/romantically-attached/201608/4-ways-set-and-keep-your-personal-boundaries

13- National Institute of Health. The Power of Pets. NIH. Feb 2018. Accessed Aug 30, 2021. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets