When looking for current studies and resources regarding social wellness, I noticed a peculiar trend. Most introductions and background information speak about unclear or conflicting findings and vague goals for data collected. Considering the variables that play a role in our knowledge of social wellness that makes sense! It would certainly be challenging to generalize across a population that consists of so many differences including cultural backgrounds, introverts and extroverts, leaders and followers and baby boomers to gen Z just to name a few.
A distinct correlation amongst the research is that social wellness (however defined) positively and directly correlates with overall well-being (Andrews & Withey, 1978). So, without getting distracted by the whys and wherefores, let’s take a look at four main components of social wellness and how to make improvements that are personalized to us.
Reading others in social interactions
Being able to accurately read other people in a social interaction is important for social wellness. It’s a skill that comes by some people naturally and others have to work hard to hone their skill. Eighty to 90 percent of our communication is nonverbal / body-language. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation! Communication via text (ever increasing) also requires a lot of ill-defined interpretation. What if you’ve never met the person? Some ways to build your people reading skills are:
- Observe an interaction that you are not emotionally attached to (without staring), and come up with two different ideas about how a person is feeling or thinking based on their nonverbal cues.
- Clarify or ask! “Hey, I think I’m noticing that this is really difficult for you, am I correct?” or “Is this difficult for you?” are two examples.
- Trial and error. Skills take practice to build. We learn as much when someone corrects us as when we get it right.
Reacting to others in social interactions
Being able to react sympathetically while staying true to your feelings and self-care can be challenging at times. While turning and running at the sight of someone is usually unnecessary, it can be perfectly appropriate to find some space if the conversation is going poorly. If a person continually does not respect you or your wishes, a reaction that you might have is to include them in your life as little as possible. The opposite could be true for someone that is respectful and supportive of you. Some things to remember:
- Their feelings are not your feelings. You are allowed to feel anything you are actually feeling.
- You are only responsible for you. Make yourself proud.
Reading ourselves with others
Maintaining self-awareness during social interactions is extremely important. This can help us regulate our reactions and even help improve our accuracy in reading others. Am I nervous to be a part of this conversation? Then I could make use of an internal pep talk. Am I super excited to be a part of this conversation? Then I may get more use out of some internal relaxation and control of my excitement.
- Purposeful breathing is always helpful in honing self-awareness
- Awareness is neutral! Take in information about yourself and make a change if you want, but don’t make judgements about yourself!
- Beware of confirmation bias. If you are feeling nervous about an interaction then you are more likely to interpret the other person’s nonverbal actions as indicators that you are doing something wrong. The same goes for feeling excited about an interaction, it can make us overlook key signs that something is amiss.
Reacting to ourselves with others
Negative self-talk is a common barrier to social wellness and can interfere with reading ourselves, reading others and our reactions to others. It is difficult to be objective about ourselves, and most of us are our own harshest critic. Some ways to combat negative self-talk are:
- For every negative comment you have for yourself, come up with an additional positive one.
- Remember these steps to self-compassion: Label the situation, not yourself. You are not alone and someone else has most-likely been in this situation. Affirmation, you’ve got this!
- Present moment focus. Sometimes an embarrassing experience in the morning can ruin our whole day, but it doesn’t have to! Yes, my forgetfulness of vocabulary was embarrassing this morning, and now I’m rocking my phone conversation.
Navigating social wellness and overall well-being is challenging and overwhelming at times. Take advantage of any and all resources and supports that you can get (like Dr. Davis’ article on well-being). The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) — offered on all three of Purdue’s campuses — is available to all benefits-eligible Purdue employees and dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan and offers professional and confidential counseling and referral services.
- Fort Wayne campus
Purdue Fort Wayne’s employee assistance program is available through the Bowen Center. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Bowen Center can be reached at 800-342-5653. For details on the employee assistance program at PFW, visit the Assistance for You and Your Family web page.
- Northwest (Hammond and Westville) campuses
New Avenues, Purdue Northwest’s employee assistance provider, offers face-to-face and online support services. In an emergency, a New Avenues’ care manager is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-731-6501. For more information on the employee assistance program at PNW, visit the Employee Assistance Program web page.
- West Lafayette
Call the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on the West Lafayette campus at 765-494-0111 to set-up an appointment with an employee assistance counselor or health coach today. Remember, health coach appointments can be done over the phone so no matter where you are, our health coaches are available to assist you. We would love to partner with you in all aspects of wellness.
Additionally, the CHL is hosting a “Toolbox for Social Wellness” workshop on Sept. 18 in the France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center’s Wellness Conference Room on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. Led by Amanda Douglas, employee assistance counselor at the CHL, the workshop will address social wellness and will explore what social wellness looks like for each individual participant. Those interested should register via the Healthy Boiler portal by Sept. 17.
Another available resource is LiveHealth Online Psychology, which offers the ability to talk virtually with a licensed therapist. Both employee assistance counseling and LiveHealth Online services are available to benefits-eligible Purdue employees and dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan.
Remember, you are not alone. Be kind to yourself. Humans are social by nature, even the quieter ones among us, so get out there and enjoy making social wellness work for you and your well-being!
Be Kind. Be Well. Boiler Up!
Written by: Amanda Douglas, Employee Assistance Counselor at the Center for Healthy Living
Source: Andrews, F. and Withey, S. (1978). Social indicators of well being. New York: Plenun.