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Social wellness: single, simple, or fickle, it pays to mingle

Social wellness: single, simple, or fickle, it pays to mingle

Being social – or forming and maintaining close bonds with one’s peers, family and those around you - tells enormously on one’s body and mind
Representational image | Shutterstock

Centuries ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle famously said that man by nature is a social animal. “An individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.”   

We now have modern-day health experts endorsing his wise words on the importance of being a “social animal’ and the ways in which it benefits us. 

Social wellness means recognising the importance of one’s social structure, namely one’s family, friends, and relatives, even society and the workplace at large. Broadly, it is about keeping up healthy relationships with those around us and effectively playing our part in that social set-up. 

Life coach Samira Gupta says, “Social interaction is important as we’re communal beings and live at par with society.”  

Inner circles matter 

Riya Sarah, 24, a student from Kerala who stays as a paying guest in Bengaluru,  realised that not being able to talk as before with her friends and family regularly after she left her hometown was starting to tell on her mental state. “I started feeling depressed and my grades went down as well.” Gradually she started conversing with her family and circles back home every week on video calls and soon found that she could cope with her dislocation and homesickness. 

Twenty-nine-year-old graphic designer Hitesh Kakkar moved from Hyderabad back to Gurgaon in July 2022, to be near his friends. “I used to miss hanging out with them and reaching out to them if in trouble. Simply put, I was not happy anymore. Moving to be near them was the best decision I have ever made,” he happily states.  

Kakkar’s confession is in fact backed by research. A longitudinal analysis over 20 years by researchers James H Fowler and Nicholas A Christakis found that people’s happiness depended on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. They concluded that happiness, like health, was a collective phenomenon. 

Coping with loneliness 

Another study led by researcher Adam Kuczynski and published in October 2021 in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships sought to “identify the components of daily social interactions that are associated with changes in depressed mood and loneliness”. It concluded that increasing social interaction can lead to lower rates of loneliness and depression.  

Effect on self-esteem 

In the Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers Harris Dallas and Ulrich Orth of the University of Bern, analysed 52 studies involving more than 47,000 participants. It looked at the effect of self-esteem on social relationships over time or vice versa.  

The researchers found that the self-esteem of subjects increased in an environment of positive social relationships, support groups, and social acceptance; whereas it fell in an environment that was the opposite.  

Learning from our parents, grandparents

Kunal Kishore Singh, data scientist at CRED, Bengaluru, says the art of cultivating social bonds can be best learnt from our parents and older generations as they knew how to balance work, family and social life.  

“Most of them had a typical 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. desk job. They would rarely carry office work or worries home. Weekends used to be fun without any labels on whether they ‘wasted’ time or if it was spent productively. They had a social life and social [and familial] responsibilities, and time was spent on meaningful bonds,” he reminisces. “Now, we just don’t know how to switch off from work and are mostly on the laptop.” 

An introvert’s guide to mingling 

Different people have different social ‘batteries’. Some like to interact with others as they find that it recharges them, whereas some limit their social interactions as it drains them emotionally.  

Gupta adds, “Introverts may find it challenging to interact with people. In that case, they should find common grounds to speak with like-minded people, so that their social wellbeing is taken care of.”

A wellness toolkit put out by the US National Institutes of Health lists out evidence-based tips for living well and improving one’s social health: 

  • Participate in community events. This will help you to connect and socialise with like-minded individuals.
  • Find new social connections by joining creative groups on social media.
  • Being active with others in your community.
  • Bond with your family. Make time for your partner, parents, and children.
  • Be supportive of everyone in your social framework.
  • Make time for childhood friends and try to stay connected with them.
  • When making new friends, set clear boundaries and protect yourself from patterns and pitfalls that could be unhealthy or harmful to you.

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