“There is no greater predictor of human well-being than the amount of social time we spend with one another.” – Tom Rath, ‘Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to The World’
Social wellbeing is not something that we naturally think about when we talk about overall wellbeing. The first things we go to tend to be physical and emotional wellbeing. But social wellbeing is hugely important, as the people we spend time with, the way that we spend time with them, and how we influence one another, has a significant role in who we are and how we behave.
Connections with other people can be easy to make, but hard to sever, so conscious socialising and keeping an eye on our social interactions is a must to keep your social wellbeing in check.
1. Are You Physically Seeing People Enough?
This is an interesting question right now, because for most people, up until recently, the answer to this is absolute ‘no’! However, now that we are not in lockdown, this is something you should ask about yourself more often.
Of course, social media and messaging platforms are amazing. They make it easy to stay in touch, to communicate casually and without fanfare (crating nuanced and comfortable shorthand with people), and stay in each other’s lives. However, this is no match for actual, physical interaction. Being in a real place with someone means that you focus real energy on them and that you have made an effort to be there. Messaging is casual, and often happening at the same time as lots of other stuff. Also, do not underestimate the power and necessity for physical touch.
2. Are Your Friendships Balanced?
A great friendship should be a two-way street. You should be there for each other and make the same effort for each other. If you are looking at one of your friendships and become aware that double standards are being set, that you are putting in more than you are getting out, or that the other simply doesn’t value the friendship to the same level that you do, then that friendship may need some change. It might be that the issue is fixable. Indeed, most great friendships have moments where one needs to confront the other. However, it might be that you have outgrown this friend and that it is time to move on, for the sake of your own wellbeing.
3. Are Your Relationships Varied Enough?
It is rare to find a friend that can give you everything you need. I certainly don’t have one. I have some friends who are great to have a drink and a laugh with, but whom I would never go to with a problem. On the other hand, I have friends who are always there, know every trauma I have been through, but aren’t great on the having a laugh side of things. Having different friends for different needs, moods, desires, and situations are important to foster a rich social circle and healthy social wellbeing.
4. Are Your Virtual Socialisations Healthy?
As I have mentioned before, and as you are no doubt already aware, a lot of our social interaction now takes place through a screen. However, one of the pitfalls of messaging in this way is that it lacks nuance. It is almost impossible to read tone through a text, and so, these kinds of social interactions can warp a relationship. It is important to balance virtual social interactions with real ones.
5. Does Anything Need Fixing?
Are all of your important relationships running as they should be? Or are there a few rifts? Are there any wounds that need fixing, or rules that need laying out?
It is really hard to confront friends sometimes, and extremely easy to let things go and pretend that they are not a problem. But if something is jarring in one of your friendships, or if there are things that are being left unsaid, the likelihood is that these will eventually blow up in your faces and cause more damage in the long run than they would if you had dealt with them sooner. Have those conversations. Heal those wounds. Release yourselves from the tensions of not being at ease with being different people.
By Chris Thomson
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