I am very passionate about promoting social well-being. The research is so clear about its wonderful and varied benefits on physical health, longevity, happiness and human flourishing. I am so passionate about it that I think it best to get right to work on providing resources. The definition of social well-being is “an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life” (United States Institute of Peace).
So let’s get to it. And, for brevity, this will be a three step process.
STEP 1: DO YOU HAVE ANY SOCIAL WELL-BEING?
First, let’s make sure you have at least some social well-being. Look at the statements below. Each of the statements represents a different quality of social well-being (noted in the parentheses next to the statement.)
Respond to each statement with a simple “True” or “False.”
- I feel close to or that I belong with some person, group, or my family. (closeness)
- I feel accepted by and also that I accept some person, group, or my family. (acceptance)
- I contribute to the life, well-being, or productivity of others. (contribution)
- I feel connected, better, or more joy because of other people in my life. (joy)
- I understand/care about other key people in my life. (caring)
- It is easy for me to talk—have a positive conversation—with at least one other person. (intimacy)
As I said, I want to make sure you have at least some social well-being. This means that you responded “True” to at least one of the six items.
Of course, the more you have the better.
Bottom-line: Here is the take-away message from the above review. To have social well-being: make sure to receive and give social support; feel part of or a sense of belonging to a community, team, or family; or have a sense of intimacy, positive communication, social harmony.
STEP 2: DIGGING DEEPER: SOCIAL WELL-BEING ACROSS LIFE DOMAINS
Now, let’s take a look at those same six qualities across four domains of your life: Family, Work, Friends, and Community.
Review the diagram below and notice that within each of these areas, there are many different people you can interact with. Actually, the diagram shows fifteen different types.
Let’s go around the circle starting with Partner in the family domain.
- For family, you may have a partner (spouse, significant other), one or more children, parents, siblings, and other relatives.
- For work, you may have coworkers you interact with, other colleagues, customers or clients, and others (e.g., your boss, a competitor).
- For friends, you may have one or more best friend(s) (e.g., BFF), close friends, acquaintances, or other casual relationships.
- Community includes any social activity where you interact with others (e.g., volunteering, the dog park, social media, social club, nightclub, hobby group, sports), routines or chores where you interact with others on some regular basis (e.g., supermarket, other community venue like a community garden), strangers, and others whose services you might use (e.g., health professionals, helpers). Strangers are included because it is possible to have a very deep conversation with someone while you are traveling (e.g., on a plane) that adds significant to your social well-being.
So, we start the circle with a significant other and we end it with others who might help.
I encourage you to take the time to look at the six qualities across all fifteen types of social types. It is possible that within any of these domains, you have at least one person where you can answer “True” to all six statements. Often, this one person is our significant other, partner or spouse. But it does not have to be. Also, here may not be one relationship where you have all six qualities. Instead, you may have closeness with some and enhancement with others.
Bottom-line: Here are three key take-away messages from this activity. First, do your best to make sure that you have some sense of social well-being (at least in one of the six areas) across all domains. Second, while it helps to do your best to develop the six qualities across multiple domains, each one of us is different. Introverts or shy people can have as much social well-being as those who are more extraverted. It is good to have at least one family member, one work associate, one friend, and one community buddy. At the same time, the key is YOUR EXPERIENCE of feeling good and connected. Third, it is possible to move from well-being to even higher states of social flourishing. This occurs when you either a) feel great joy and happiness from interacting with others–that is, you feel so close, so accepted, great contribution, great enhancement, deep care, and deep intimacy; or b) you have a deep sense of connection with many people within or across domains.
Use the diagram as a tool to make sure you monitor your well-being from time to time.
STEP 3: GETTING HELP–LONELINESS, CONFLICT, ESTRANGEMENT, REJECTION
The biggest challenges to social well-being are loneliness, feeling ongoing conflict or being estranged from those you love, or being rejected, abandoned, neglected, or abused. Abuse can be physical, verbal, or emotional. We may have even had these experiences in the past but the memories continue to hurt us. If you experience any of these, please reach out for help or consider who – from the circle of 15 – who you can talk to. It is very important to address these feelings and help is always available.
Also, think about the beginning and end of the circle diagram. It happens that the area where we can derive the deepest connection – with a significant other – is also the area where we can experience some of the most difficult problems in human relationships. This is why we have places and people who can help.
Another great way to have social well-being is by helping others, through some volunteer activity, or helping out in the community in some way.
Below are some lists of resources for getting help, in case you ever want to get help or or give help.
- Employee Assistance Program (ask your wellness champion or human resources department about the free counseling offered through the EAP)
- Local Counselors can be found through these resources
- A List of Directories: http://www.helpstartshere.org/find-a-social-worker
- Treatment Locator Map: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
- Search Therapists by State: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/
- Marriage & Family Therapist Locator: http://www.aamft.org/imis15/AAMFT/Content/Directories/Find_a_Therapist.aspx
Getting Involved or Volunteering
When volunteering, it can be get involved with a cause or agency you believe in; here are some ideas
- Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org
- Contact your local YMCA or United Way
- Causes on FaceBook: https://apps.facebook.com/causes/
- Read this list of over 100 things you can do: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/saguaro/about-social-capital/what-you-can-do
Blog by Dr. Joel Bennett, Consultant to ACEC Designed Wellness