With a Little Help from My Friends

 The age-old adage, “To love others, you must first love yourself” does indeed apply to our daily lives, and is not just a “go-to” saying for moms to use after a less than favorable breakup. Social wellness experts concur that to be a good friend to others, indeed, we must first be a good friend to ourselves by taking care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. When we practice self-care, we create space to have meaningful relationships and the stability to keep our relationships healthy.


High amounts of stress manifesting as poor time management, anger, feelings of overwhelm, and/or general avoidance and alienation just won’t do when it comes to self-care, and in turn, social wellness. Stress, however, as a normal and manageable part of our lives does not necessarily spell “doom.” Rather, it’s the way we choose to react to stress that may cause strain in our relationships. When the body releases the stress response hormones such as a adrenaline and cortisol, it also releases another nifty hormone: oxytocin, the love hormone! Oxytocin beckons for us to bring those who support and love us closer. Meaning that within our stress response is also the potential for stress resilience. Thanks, Evolution! Kelly McGonigal PhD, TED Talk speaker, and author of The Upside of Stress discovered that Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the suffering of others, the way to find hope is to connect, not to escape.” McGongical also stated that while we still have the potential to act out aggressively or withdraw due to stress, this, “tend and befriend” upside to stress in opposition to our “fight-or-flight” response can help us to connect with others and be more prepared to deal with life’s challenges.  


Cultivating social wellness, therefore, not only requires that we know where or how to find our “tribes,” but also that we individually take care of ourselves and nurture those connections rather than deplete them. So, are you ready to make some friends and enhance the relationships you already have?! Read on to discover ways to strengthen your social life in order to cultivate wholeness in your life.


“You Got a Friend in Me”: 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Social Life


  1. Know You

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you enjoy spending time with people in small groups, large groups, or one-on-one? How much socializing is beneficial for you? How much alone time might you need each day to “recenter” yourself prior to social interaction? Questions like these can help you get to know your social preferences and needs regarding relationships. If you need more help navigating your socializing needs and wants you can start by taking the Myers- Briggs personality test, which can provide you with a personality type as well as guidance concerning your social preferences, strengths, and potential weaknesses. And, remember! Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, there is no right or wrong way to engage in social activity. What’s important is that you meet your individual needs and wants and feel satisfied with your social life.


  1. Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care, much like knowing our needs and wants regarding relationships, is a highly individualized matter. Self-care can take the shape of a variety of activities and routines, but what’s most important is that it helps you to feel more grounded and more clarity. Self-care needs to be done on a consistent basis in order to keep us steady and making decisions that our honor our needs and individuality. Raphailia Michael MA, contributor on PsychCentral.com, writes, “Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”


Meditation, exercising, journaling, getting enough sleep and starting a daily gratitude list are all ways to practice self-care. But, keep in mind, the options are endless! As long as self-care is deliberate and promotes a sense of well-being, then you’re doing it right. Lastly, if you need guidance in creating a daily self-care routine, schedule an appointment with a Health Coach at Purdue University’s Center for Healthy Living.


  1. Quality Versus Quantity

As it turns out, good friends are in fact good for you. According to a recent study, those who have a strong support system also have fewer cardiovascular and immunity problems and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Dr. Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist and researcher at the University of Oxford found that interactions from quality friendships, such as a hug from our best pal, releases endorphins which strengthen our immune system and protect us from disease.  And, the quality of the friendship does matter! Pick friends and relationships that encourage you to make healthy decisions and are positive influences.


In return, be a quality friend by listening, keeping your commitments and appreciating your friends and their contributions to your life. Being a good friend and member of the community by committing acts of kindness also has its plethora of health benefits including increasing feel good hormones, reducing pain and lessening the symptoms of anxiety and depression. For these reasons, Healthy Boiler and One to One Health are rolling out a kindness initiative titled, “One Act.” So, after you make some friends and do some good, report your One Act of kindness by accessing it on the Healthy Boiler Wellness portal at www.healthyboiler.com.


 4. ‘It’s Your ‘Thang’, Do WhaCha Wanna Do’

Build your social your way by participating in activities that make your heart soar! Reconnect with an old friend who enjoys a common hobby, sign up for a class that you always wanted to take or volunteer to support your favorite cause. Whatever you choose to do, just make it some you ‘wanna’ do and not something that you feel like you “should” or “have” to do. This is also where your social preferences discussed earlier in this post will come into play. Allow your preferences to guide your decision making process in choosing what you want to spend your time doing and with who.


  1. Write it down, Make it a Goal

Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It,” isn’t only useful for selling sneakers. It’s also a great motto for getting past hesitation and worries associated with doing something new or out of our comfort zone. In addition to adopting a “just do it” attitude, write down your goals related to building your social circle and complete one achievable goal at a time. A great goal to start would be, “Call or text so-and-so to see how they are doing.” And remember, just do it! 


If you need guidance regarding self-care practices or stress management, Purdue University’s Center for Healthy Living has a team of health coaches ready to help you set goals and succeed. EAP Counselors are also onsite to discuss with you and help you navigate any barriers to success in your life such as anxiety or depression and/or any challenging life circumstance. Just call us today at 765-494-0111.


Be well, be kind to others, and Boiler Up!


Blog Post written by Katie, a member of the One to One Wellness Health Coaching Team at The Center for Healthy Living


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