Social Health

At first glance, social health may be challenging to identify and address, but there are many benefits that come from strengthening your relationships with others. Let's learn more about how to develop and maintain relationships and how social health can be just as important as physical health.

Defining Social Health

Social health involves your ability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships with others. It also relates to your ability to adapt comfortably to different social situations and act appropriately in a variety of settings. Spouses, co-workers and acquaintances can all have healthy relationships with one another. Each of these relationships should include strong communication skills, empathy for others and a sense of accountability. In contrast, traits like being withdrawn, vindictive or selfish can have a negative impact on your social health. Overall, stress can be one of the most significant threats to a healthy relationship. Stress should be managed through proven techniques such as regular physical activity, deep breathing and positive self-talk.

Developing Relationships

To effectively develop relationships and maintain good social health, individuals must be willing to:

  1. Give of themselves
    This could include sacrificing time, effort, energy or money.
  2. Have adequate levels of self-esteem
    Being mentally and emotionally secure with oneself can help an individual maintain healthy relationships.
  3. Establish a sense of identity
    Sacrificing personal characteristics often results in less satisfying relationships, while acting like your true self will strengthen social bonds.

All relationships will have some level of emotional involvement, also known as intimacy. Determining how intimate a relationship will become is critical to long-term social health. While acquaintances or co-workers may have very little intimacy, family members and spouses often have intimacy levels high enough to be considered love. Characteristics of a healthy relationship include:

  • Trust - those involved have faith in each other and will do what is best for the relationship.
  • Compassion - the physical and emotional well-being of others in the relationship is considered important.
  • Respect - sacrifices made for the relationship such as time, effort and money are acknowledged and valued.
  • Acceptance - changing individual characteristics and personality traits is not an expectation.
  • Reciprocity - the give and take within the relationship is relatively equal.

Challenges in Relationships

Relationships may be compromised for a variety of reasons. A lack of honesty or openness, unrealistic expectations and jealousy are all factors that can push relationships to an unhealthy state. For example, a spouse that expects his or her husband/ wife to do the majority of the housework without any display of appreciation may experience a low-quality relationship as a result. Conflict resolution methods that attempt to solve relationship problems such as empathy and negotiation may be needed to help the situation. If attempts to improve the situation fail, an unhealthy relationship may need to end. Being honest, tactful and compassionate is the healthiest way to end a relationship.

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