How to Improve or Maintain Social Health

The link between healthy social relationships and overall health is profound, perhaps more than many people realize. Recent studies are crediting a high degree of social health with lowered blood pressure, a lowered risk of cancer and heart disease, even speeding up the rate at which wounds heal! With these obvious benefits in mind, how can we observe a set of “best practices” when it comes to being social? Read on for seven tips on how to improve and maintain a high degree of social wellness. 

  1. Lean on your community. Hopefully you don’t have to reach too far to find opportunities for social interaction. Whether it’s joining a community cleanup crew, volunteering at a library or hospital, or participating in some kind of neighborhood event, keep on the lookout for nearby opportunities to be social. Good places to look include cafes with event boards, libraries, and events sections in the news or on social media.
  2. Remember to breathe. Our sense of calm is built around respiration. If you start to feel anxiety building in a social situation, there are a few different ways of breathing you can try, courtesy of Harvard Health, to try. 
  3. Go with what you know. One of the easiest ways to start getting more social is by pursuing one of your passions…even if it’s one you haven’t actually done yet. Always wondered how to mushroom hunt, make pottery, or do some acting? Taking a class, volunteering, or joining an existing group that participates in one of your desired hobbies are a few of the ways the National Institutes of Health recommends to find new friends.
  4. Get active. The saying “team work makes the dream work” definitely applies to social health. Joining a sports team, club, or group class at the gym (if and when it’s safe to do so under current public health guidelines) will help take the anxiety out of friend-searching and connect you with people united for a common goal.
  5. Become a better listener. Everyone loves to talk, and they especially love someone who listens. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get people to open up by following some tips on listening, including maintaining good eye contact, mirroring, and asking questions rather than focusing on yourself. (That being said, answer questions when someone asks! Sharing is part of the deal.)
  6. Bring a positive attitude. All of these tips are at risk of falling short if you don’t enter into social events with the right mindset. As you seek to improve or maintain your social health, Psychology Today recommends keeping a positive attitude, one that others will gravitate to and enjoy being around. 
  7. Take care of yourself (so you can take care of others). In some ways, good social health begins with how well we’re taking care of ourselves. If we’re not keeping up with healthy eating, exercise, personal grooming, and other matters, these tend to get us down and inclined to seclusion. The National Institutes of Health advises people to keep a daily routine of eating, grooming, and other matters that keep you accountable and outward-looking.
  8. Work for it. A study looking into why it’s difficult to make friends as an older adult found that individuals who believed making friends had to do with luck were, on the whole, lonelier than those who recognized that friendship takes work. Knowing that, try to keep in mind that making new friends isn’t a matter outside of your control—it’s up to you!