Being Part of Something Bigger than Yourself
Developing and nurturing your relationships with others
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “garmi ki chutti”? Did you just go back to the time where you spent your entire summer holidays at your Nani ka Ghar? Did you feel what it felt like coming home to a cool glass of Lassi after playing in the sun all day long with your cousins? Or the times you played cricket in the gali or any open field with your friends? Well, most of my summer holidays were spent outdoors. I don’t remember being home at all. My cousins and I would do all sorts of crazy and adventurous things- from climbing trees, swimming in small lakes to lying down on the grass and basking in the sun. We listened to our Dada and Dadi talk about how they were always outdoors playing goli or cricket. “Hamare din mein na, hum ghar sirf raat ko hi jaate the” is something that you might hear a lot. Today, things are a lot different and anyone would agree that children spend most of their time on phones and other gadgets than they do outdoors.
Wondering why I am talking about how I spent my summer holidays with my friends?!
Well, to put it in simple words, social wellness refers to having a good relationship with others around you. Openly communicating needs, feelings, and thoughts to those we trust, as well as actively listening with empathy when they share with us, is an important part of social wellness. It simply means being part of something bigger than yourself.
Defining social wellness
Social wellness is defined as maintaining healthy relationships, enjoying being with others, developing friendships and intimate relations, caring about others, and letting others care about you. You will be surprised to see how our relations with others affect our overall health. People who have healthy relationships and a strong social network live longer and respond better to stress, which is why social wellness is so important. Stress and anxiety levels reduce, resulting in a healthier endocrine system, improved cardiovascular function, and a stronger immune system.
Now you might say, “Being social with my relatives does the exact opposite of reducing stress and anxiety” and I totally get this and agree with you. The snarky and sarcastic comments made by your chacha or bua or any other relative is annoying and you absolutely hate it, especially around the time your results come out or if you are of the “age” to get married or have kids.
“Kitna aaya beta?” or “Pata hai, Sharmaji ki beti ko 1st rank mila hai” does not make anyone feel nice, come on. I get more anxious to face these relatives than to check my own results. So, no one is asking you to have a good relationship with everyone. But, the few good ones you can absolutely trust and those that make you feel good about yourself are the ones that you should actually care about.
Of course, small arguments here and there are bound to happen, and you will have your “Pooja, what is this behaviour” moments with each other, but always look out for those who still stick around even after these fights.
Social wellness does not refer to the number of friends you have. Nor does it depend upon the positivity you throw around while talking about your family. It is a concept of quality over quantity. So even if you have one good friend or a person in your life who you can go to with everything and anything- be it talking about the person you’re flirting with at the moment or about how you escaped the chipkali (lizard) in the bathroom- you are good to go. This person need not be a friend- it can be your favourite cousin or your cool masi- anyone you are comfortable around.
With all this being said, a very important question can be asked here- why is it necessary to maintain authentic relations with others that are not pretentious? Why do I have to put in extra effort for it? “Main aise hi acha hu” or "Mujhse nahi hoga" definitely comes to mind. Well, that is just a lie that we tell ourselves to either avoid conflicts or uncomfortable situations because putting in all that effort may require a lot of inner work in some situations. You may be happy alone but in the long run, it is not healthy and can lead to loneliness and serious physical and mental illnesses.
Why is it important to maintain social wellness?
With today’s advancements in technology (and coronavirus too), non-face to face communication has increased to such an extent that it has increased the isolation levels too. Ask yourself how many times did you hate starting your laptop and going on that zoom meeting?!
Isolation has proven to have adverse consequences on human health. Both social isolation and social exclusion are linked to a lower chance of survival, as well as a lower quality of life, increased chances of depression, and a higher risk of chronic diseases. This affects physical and mental health to a great extent.
To overcome this and improve your social health to lead a happy and holistic life, there are a few activities that have proven to be efficient to boost your social wellness.
But, before you work on these, it is important that you start with yourself. Make sure you are ready. This means you must first begin with self-care. Sleeping properly, well-balanced diet and exercise are equally important as we have seen in the article on physical wellness.
Maintaining Social Wellness
The National Health Portal of India has provided a few strategies by which you can look after your social wellness. They are as follows:
Making Connections - This can be done by developing new hobbies by joining groups of reading, writing, yoga etc, volunteering and the best way is by travelling and meeting new people. Make sure you don't overwhelm yourself by enrolling in a lot of activities, getting exhausted and then dropping out from all of them altogether.
Getting active - Start participating in group activities like debates and discussions or join an exercise group or start new outdoor activities with friends. You know how your mother is always scolding you that you don’t do any work at home and you are always on your phone? Well, this is a good opportunity for you to get your lazy ass up and help in the household work. I promise you, it will be worth it!
Building healthy relations - This can be achieved by sharing your feelings, thoughts and emotions with others, listening to others empathetically and protecting yourself from bad company. Listen to your parents when they say that some friend of yours is a snake because they are always (umm, most of the times) right.
Developing healthy habits in the family - A lot of us are always eating while watching TV or do not spend enough time with our family, at least this is the case in my house. We can change this by doing certain activities together like cleaning or cooking or even taking a vacation from time to time.
I know at some point, all of us have wanted to go to a coffee shop with our friends and jam to the TV show FRIENDS’ theme song “I’ll be there for you”. Or just wished that you had a friend like Rancho from 3 Idiots. Or even better, plan a trip to Europe like how it was done in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. What all these TV shows and movies convey is that life is difficult but the right friends and family make it a little better.
Thus, maintaining a good relationship with those around you is crucial. Don’t worry, nobody is asking you to reply to your nani’s Good Morning message in the WhatApp family group. We are just suggesting that having good friends who you can rely on and taking an active part in community activities is good for not only your social health but your overall health too. You can also start attending social events that you have been avoiding, once in a while, add them to your calendar. If you do not like the event or just have to vent to someone and no one is available, you can always journal and pen down your feelings and emotions. A regular journaling activity goes a long way. Although this is only a temporary solution, it is definitely very effective. It is like your own personal little friend whom you can trust with everything in your life.