What is Social Support and Why Does it Encourage Sustainable Health

November 28, 2019

Why Social Support is Necessary

Do you notice the differences in your energy when you interact with people who are passionate about improving their health and overall life versus those who are not? With some people, we feel enlightened and ready to take on whatever is thrown our way. But with others, we are left drained and wishing for a nap. So, what is social support? And why is it crucial for our wellness?

Relationships affect our health, and it is necessary for us to become aware of the good and bad relationships that are present in our lives. Once we are aware, we can create boundaries with those who drain us, so we have more time for those who lift us up. So, how can we find great systems of support? 

I’ve been on this journey of figuring out WHO I am and WHO/WHAT I’d like to bring into my life. And this blog breaks down the whole process. As a major boundary-setter and intentional relationship builder, I encourage you to keep reading!

What is Social Support?

Social support is knowing and feeling cared for. These relationships are found in your daily life and provide a hand to hold during times of need.

There are also various types of social support. Those include:

  • Emotional: This type is all about showing empathy and comfort through listening.
  • Instrumental: This is when someone offers to take on responsibilities for you or help with some form of tangible support.
  • Informational: Think all things advice or suggestion related! It’s when you can relate to someone and say, “yes, I’ve been there. This is what I did…”
  • Esteem: Need a confidence boost? Maybe you need to hear it from someone!

Your support system can be found and created online or offline. Both have their pros and cons, but I think the best support is using a mix of the two. Offline support can consist of getting dinner with a friend, going to an event, a weekly exercise class, a phone call, and numerous other examples. While online support can be a group of people you connect with on the internet, you can meet up with these people in person too!

Wehl is an incredible online tool ANYONE can access to have instant connection to people who are passionate about improving their health.

It is a great online support option that can complement your current blend of support systems.

Something to consider when figuring out what type of support works for you is getting very clear with what type of support you need. Our needs vary, and some of us need more support than others.  We must also be careful with WHO these people are, no matter where we connect.

Clinical Nutritionist and Functional Medicine coach, Robyn Puglia, says that “social interaction and support can be powerful in the face of disease, but who you surround yourself with daily can affect you on a more basic level.” Our repetitive social interactions with our main circle heavily influence our behaviors – from what we eat to how we like to spend our time and more. “This is because you’re influenced subconsciously by those around you.” 

Remember, we are who we hang out with.

So, let’s cut to the chase – are you surrounding yourself with inspirational and well-disciplined people? Or do you need to create more space to invite positive social support into your life? Ask yourself these hard questions and sit with it. Think about how you feel around your current group of people.

As someone who has created A LOT of boundaries with friends and family, I think it’s important to note how hard this process is. It can be painful stepping away from people you love. Take your time with this and ease into boundary-setting.

Why is positive social support healthy for humans?

Social support encourages ADHERENCE to healthy behaviors.

And, let’s be honest, sticking to things that are kind to our health can be HARD! Especially if you didn’t grow up learning what health was all about.

Routines that are good for us can become much more attainable if we have people to talk to during the process. When you know you have those friends or family members cheering you on, it gives you a psychological boost.  This support increases the bonding hormone, Oxytocin. When this happens, you decrease your chances of chronic illness.  This happens because you feel less anxiety, your immune support is enhanced, and your blood pressure lowers which allows you to ENJOY life more.

There have been over 35-years of psychosocial epidemiological studies explaining the relationship and effects of social support and health. Their findings result in social support causing protective long-term health.

It’s important to note that social support varies depending on the individual. While some people need a phone call a week from their best pal, others may need a family dinner every night. The range of support is dependent on multiple demographic, psychosocial, and biological factors. In the scientific study, How does Social Support Enhance Resilience in the Trauma-exposed Individual, they say that “resiliency is highly dependent on social systems that provide social support. Through these systems, resiliency is enhanced through psychological and neurobiological mechanisms.” The article continues to say that those who have suffered through a disaster greatly benefit from community resilience and coordinated responses.

We are meant to unite with people and take part in community. It is intrinsic to humans and part of who we are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that when we partake in community initiatives, we are bringing the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people in need. For an entire community’s health to be elevated, it takes a collective – not just an individual.

We have communities all around us – at work, our neighborhoods, our Tuesday-night soccer club, online, and the list continues. When we feel part of something bigger than ourselves, it gives us PURPOSE which strengthens everyone’s health – not just our own. 

Community is an anchor.

And if chosen wisely, it will push you to do bigger and better things.

My Story about Community and Why it Matters

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and have moved… A LOT. I’ve been moving ever since I was little – and now, I can see that community is what’s kept me grounded during these transitions.

I’m still in contact with friends and family from Pennsylvania, but I’ve created a lot of distance so I can invite more positive influences into my life. Everywhere I’ve moved, I’ve made it a point to find people who are passionate about their pursuit of individual growth. And even though I’m far from most of these people, we stay in contact.

Another strategy I’ve taken is to join online communities! The internet is vast, and you can find just about any niche group of people you feel aligned with. One group I joined about a year and a half ago was called Lunar Nourishment with Lydia Jarjoura. Her program was designed to give women space to process whatever it is they’ve lived through. And to show up 2x a month with one another for accountability. Joining this group was extremely healthy for me as I was living in Miami, FL – away from anything and everything I’ve ever known.

Having a digital friend group and support system has REALLY helped me. It made me feel comforted. I’ve discovered communities that fit with me and who I want to become – and in my opinion, this is key. You shouldn’t join a group of people just because. It’s important to take the time you need to figure out who you are and where you’re going.

I’ve moved once again. This time, I’m living in Colorado! And I recently joined Wehl’s community. Wehl is a social media platform with the mission to connect people to inspire wellness and spread good. It’s a place that is solely focused on improving your health – YES! Wehl has users from all over the globe contributing to their feed. Wellness leaders, doctors, therapists, and every day people post tips about their personal health journey.

This has yet again felt like an anchor for me and gives me a group of people to count on. And it’s free!!! I’m just beginning my journey with Wehl and living in Colorado, but so far, I feel happy. Transitions are HARD. But, if we build our group of friends carefully, we will always have people to count on.

 

 

 

Who are you and who do you want to be? What makes YOU happy? Are you trying to instill healthy habits and connect with people who are on the same path? What do you want to bring into your life? What do you want to remove?

Take some time and think about these questions. Before you just jump into any friend group, dig deep and find clarity.

 

 

 

You must create time for community building. Take note on what takes up a lot of time in your life – is it spending time with people who drain you? Watching TV? Waking up late? Staying up too late? Are there times in your day-to-day life that you can reclaim?

Once you can reclaim your time again, you can mindfully use that time to find your tribe.

 

 

Research events going on in your area that grab your attention. Maybe it’s a local pottery-making session or a hiking club – dip your feet into unknown territory and see how you feel with a niche group of people. You can even join Wehl’s community to get tons of ideas 😉

 

 

 

 

When you find your people, have FUN with them. Check up on them. Support them with your time and love. And if you pick your friends wisely, then you’ll receive individualized and intentional support right back.

Talk about what FIRES them up. The good & bad. Give your friends and family a microphone to let their voice take up space.

Lastly, celebrate them! The small wins and big.

 

 

Most importantly, we want to make sure our community LASTS. To create your sustainable community, make sure you set up ritual with these people.

Agree to going to the gym together every Tuesday or going on a walk on Sunday mornings. Maybe you agree to check in with an accountability partner(s) 1x/month. Or, you can commit to trying a new activity in your area with a friend every 3rd Sunday of the month.

GET SPECIFIC here. Write it down and hold yourself and your pal accountable. Find what works for YOU and those you want to keep close.

 

Remember… for all of this to work,

You must GIVE before you TAKE.

When you can give your love and support, people are more willing to reciprocate.

 

Why Wehl is a Great Place to Build or Grow your Support Circle

Ever go on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and feel overwhelmed and exhausted? I have. I go on multiple social media hiatuses per year from these platforms!

My experience with Wehl has felt completely different. Their supportive and safe environment allows positive energy to live and breathe. It’s hyper-focused on health which aligns with my passions seamlessly.

Wellness is SO unique for everyone (which is why I’ve been enjoying this platform). The posts range from healthy recipes to how to stay positive during the winter to tips to regulate your anxiety.

Check out Wehl.com and connect with people who are on a similar health journey. Scroll through supportive and inspirational content and connect with individuals who seem aligned with you! Get ready to feel motivated by a community of people who are passionate about bettering their health and well-being.

Support is here for you.

There are people who want to build you up to be the BEST version of yourself, even though it may take time to find what works for you. Believe me when I say that joining communities that make you feel GOOD make a significant impact on your health.

Social support provides sustainable health… so, why wait until you’re chronically ill to take your medicine? Take advantage of the incredible communities that are available to you and enjoy the benefits.

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