As we continue our month-long dive into the different parts of wellness, what little things you can do for you, and for your family, this week I look at social wellness.
What is social wellness? There is no one definitive cookie-cutter answer to what this should look like for every individual. Each person has their own degree of need of socialness, for interaction with others, for connections, as well as for their preferred mode of communications. It is important to know what this should ideally look like for yourself; it will most likely be different than what your partner wants/needs or what your kids would like. Social well-being includes one’s ability to make friends as well their sense of belonging, feeling to be a part of a community, and spending time with others who are like-minded and supportive. It might include those close friends you can count on for kid-schlepping or ear-bending. What does ‘social wellness’ look like to you? Do you like to be busy and surrounded by friends? Do you prefer one or two close confidants? You know you best; you know what you need best. Balance what you need with what you HAVE to do; work- or family-related social obligations are also something to consider when you look at what you are putting on your social calendar.
What can we do, what can we say to help you really develop this realm of your wellness? Yours and your kids’? This week, 5 simple things you can do for yourself that will make a big improvement in your social wellness. And most of them are free!
1. Take an honest look at yourself when you are with the people you spend the most time with (this could be your family, or your friends). Make an honest assessment of yourself while you are with these key people: do you like who you are? Do you like how you behave and treat people? Do you smile and laugh genuinely? Are you your honest best self when you are with your friends? If you can't say unequivocally 'yes' then do you think you can say good-bye to these people who are not allowing you to be your true self? It might be in your best interest to do so.
2. Are you spending as much time as you'd like with your family? With your friends? Do you feel like your social bucket is filled? Or over-flowing? How can you tell? This is such a hard question for everyone to answer; but the only person who can answer it for you is you. Do you feel happy when you have time with your friends? Is it enough?
3. Join a club. I know, cringe! But hear me out: joining a group of individuals who come together to do an activity together (e.g. read a book and discuss it, sew or quilt, scrapbook, paint, whatever) is a great way to meet new people. Will you click with everyone? Absolutely not. But chances are really good that you will meet at least one interesting new person. Overseas, we have a number of groups that are organized who get together monthly to discuss different country-specific topics and also do charitable work. These are a great way to meet new people and do some good at the same time.
4. Say hi to a stranger. Strike up a conversation. I know, sometimes this can really backfire, but for the most part, the people you see waiting for the bus, enjoying their coffee, browsing at the store for (insert item here) are interesting people with interesting lives. Say hi. Smile. The older we get, the more I am sure of two things: first, your level of self-confidence is up, and you hopefully aren't feeling teenage-level angst when approaching new people; you know to just be yourself and that is a good thing. second, people just want to be treated with respect and kindness.
5. Encourage Prodependence. Just say no: When a relationship has done south, has started to wither, or is just not fitting right any longer, say no. If you have a friend who is constantly whining, negative or you feel might be using you for their own needs, just say no. Encourage positive behavior in your friendships, in your relationship, and don't enable the negative. You are you, and have confidence in knowing that you don't need to stick in a relationship wherein you feel as though you are being pushed towards negative behaviors or responses. Your relationships should bring you happiness, and peace of mind. You should feel better, buoyed, happy, after spending time with a friend or loved one.
For your family:
1. We Foreign Service families move often. This can be a problem for our kids who don't tend to be socially flexible, and react positively to new social situations or challenges. Your kids might suffer from social challenges that they don't want to bring to your attention because you are dealing with othe