Why Do We Need Social Interactions?
The answer to the above question was given by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle when he said, “Man is, by nature, a social animal”.
To understand the importance of social interactions, we need to understand one basic fact – we humans cannot live alone. We have to satisfy certain basic needs for survival, one of which is mutual dependence upon each other. Establishing relationships with fellow human beings comes naturally, starting from even before birth to the death. The relationship of an embryo with the mother is that of a physical dependency of the embryo and emotional dependency of the mother.
As we grow up, we build relationships based on love, friendship, care, respect, and even certain negative emotions of fear, hatred, dislike, jealousy, etc. None of these relationships are permanent in nature and these equations keep changing throughout our lifetime. Without the existence of a society in which we live and interact with each other, there would, perhaps, be no stability to our status as an individual.
What is Social Wellness?
The relationships that we build and the way we interact with others is the measure of our Social Wellness. Building genuine, healthy, supportive relationships which stand the test of time and grow stronger by the day, is what Social Wellness is all about.
A society is built on the principles of ‘Give & Take’. Each one of us possesses certain qualities, knowledge, skills, physical & emotional traits. When we interact with others, we are presented with an opportunity to share our strengths with others and provide support to those who lack in the qualities that we have abundance of.
At the same time, we need to eliminate our weaknesses by drawing upon the strengths of those who are sharing their traits with you and are giving us the support that we need.
Social wellness is having positive interactions with and enjoying the company of others. It is performing your work with comfort and ease as well as enjoying leisure situations with equal comfort and ease. It means establishing and developing close friendships and intimacy, being empathetic and an effective listener, being caring towards others while allowing others to care for you. It is balancing time between work, family, friends and other responsibilities that come from being part of the society.
Effects of Social Isolation
Just to prove the rule of exception, there are a few amongst us who are living a life of social isolation – opposite of social wellness. There have been many studies and researches done on the impact of loneliness upon our physical and mental health. Here are some of the results that have come across:
- Loneliness leads to depleted physical health, loss of energy and frequent feeling of fatigue and lethargy
- Greater likelihood of chronic illnesses
- Frequent attacks of common illnesses like cold & flu and prolonged recovery time
- Increased chances of falling into depressive state of mind
- Perpetual state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life
- Shorter life span
Unfortunately, though, cases of social isolation are on the rise, globally. And a lot more cases of such instances are occurring unknowingly.
The Changing Social Fabric
In any society, the members are like the threads which, when woven together, form the social fabric of the society. The tighter the weave, the stronger is the society. Loosen up the threads, the fabric can be easily torn into.
Every coin has two faces, so does the coin of ‘development’. While technological development is making us ‘advanced’, its flip side is loosening the weave that societies used to have, say in the 20th century. In the mid-1900s, the concept of joint family – all the members of one family living together – created an unprecedented bond between the family members. The neighborhood used to be vibrant with interactions between families living close to each other.
With the advent of Television, to Computers, Internet and now Smart Phones, all these technological advances have eaten into our social interactions and relationships, drawing us towards them while taking us away from our family, friends & associates.
Cultivating Social Wellness
The fact is that these advancements will continue. It is for us to adopt them for our growth and still maintain our basic nature of being social. Here are some guidelines for you to cultivate some habits which can lead you on the path of social wellness:
Take Care of yourself: Life is not a straight smooth road, instead, it is full of ups and downs, bends and blind curves. To meet the challenges of life, you must be prepared by keeping yourself in fine mettle – physically, mentally and spiritually. Practice hygiene, get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise regularly, stay away from substance abuse, meditate, manage stress. Develop knowledge and skills.
Know yourself: Identify your needs, your preferences, your values, your goals, your ambitions and your limits. Communicate your interests and values with others when you meet. This will help you in identifying others with similar interests and values and building lasting relationships with them.
Do not be judgmental: Being judgmental, critical or accusatory towards self or others can lead to a bad relationship with others and can lead you up to depression, anxiety and social isolation.
Take responsibility of your actions: In social interactions, you may face situations of conflict with others. You need to accept responsibility of your actions that have led to the situation rather than pushing all the responsibility on to others. Be fair to yourself and others.
Follow the positive, reject the negative: Stay close to people who are positive, even if they have drifted away on account of life challenges. Call them, keep in touch. At the same time, stay away from people with negative mindset. Breed optimism, starve pessimism.
Honor your word: Keep your commitments to self and others. Know your limits and boundaries. Before making any commitment, make a realistic assessment of your ability to meet the commitment focusing on the constraints, if any, that can become stumbling blocks.
Be kind and helpful: Compassion is a big virtue. Always be willing to extend a helping hand to people who are in need. If you are in a position to help, do so. Who knows, someday the roles may reverse.
Appreciate and praise others: Acknowledge and appreciate the positive qualities that you see in others. Pay genuine compliments and praise others for their good deeds. This kind of a positive behavior makes you and others feel happy and boosts healthy relationships.
Activities in your journey to social wellness
If you have just started focusing on this important dimension of wellness, here are some suggestions that you may want to take up:
- Take up an activity like going to the gym, jogging in a park, a fitness class, where you get to meet more people
- Take up a hobby and find others who share your interest
- Volunteer for activities working towards a cause that you may care for
- Invite a neighbor for lunch or dinner
- Organize a Super Bowl night at your place
- Re-connect with an old friend from school or college
The need to focus on the social dimension of wellness comes from the fact that we live in a society. The basic nature of us humans is that of interactivity with each other. A person in a good state of social wellness will consider not about self but about others as well, emphasize upon healthy relationships, mutual respect and admiration, be supportive towards each other by being together in each other’s thick and thin.
This will take care of the social aspect of your overall state of wellness.