Social wellbeing is one of the 6 wellbeing dimensions that you should look after if you’re interested in upgrading your wellbeing and life.
It’s the right hand in the wellbeing body analogy that I referred to in the above article, representing the hand that shakes other people’s hand when connecting with each other.
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What is social wellbeing definition?
Social wellbeing is the state of belonging, being valued and connected with others around you in mutually meaningful and valuable relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at the keywords mentioned in the definition.
This refers to social wellbeing being a subjective dimension as well in the higher levels, with some parts being objective.
Yes, you can count how many friends you have for example which makes this one-point objective, but the sense of feeling value with that number is totally subjective, and that’s going to be your social wellbeing evaluation.
This refers to being part of a group within your key places. These are where you live, work, study, and spend your remaining time.
Belonging is big part of your social wellbeing and therefore it has a huge impact on your overall wellbeing.
This is another ingredient to successful relationships with others. Being valued by them for any reason, which could be because your expertise, or skills, or personality, or character, or support.
Anything that you can contribute to feel valued by your network is something worth looking and enhancing if you’re seeking to improve your social wellbeing
This represents having a deeper level of relationships where you can be affected by changes happening to your connections.
This is where you get affected by a death in your friend’s family. You show up, you help with errands, you check frequently, etc. So, you’re supporting emotionally, financially, physically, and spiritually.
Being connected and belonging aren’t the same thing. Belonging as I see it, is a higher level of relationship with higher level of connection.
Let’s say you’re part of a city community in your city. That’s a higher level of relationship you have with the rest there with a higher level of connection with them.
Having a close friend within that community is a deeper level within that group with a deeper level of connection.
So, if there’s a death in the family of one member of that community, yes you’ll be touched, but you won’t show the same level of support as you’ll do for the deeper connection you have with that close friend in the same community.
This includes everyone around you. Anyone that you can create a relationship with like, your spouse, kids, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, teachers, etc.
The relationship you have with yourself and the way you connect with it, is part of your mental wellbeing mainly. It’s the dimension that controls how you talk and treat yourself in a positive way according to your mental status and stress levels.
It’s about being a giver and a taker, not just a taker. In relationships, there will be times you’ll need support from others, so you’ll be a taker and that’s fine. Other times, the opposite will happen, and others will need your support, so you’ll be a giver and that’s even better.
Giving always triumph taking, as Adam Grant puts it in his Give and Take book, a masterpiece in my opinion.
A normal relationship will contain both taking and giving opportunities:
Being a taker, all the way is the worst thing you can do to others and yourself. The huge impact is on others hating you for taking advantage of them without giving in return.
Being a giver, all the way is the worst thing you can do to yourself mainly. The huge impact is on yourself being taken advantage of by others who may or may not by conscious takers.
Being a reciprocal, all the way is bad for both others and you. The impact I see is the same on both yourself in always finding a way to reciprocate for what you have done for others which is exhausting, and on others in being cautious when dealing with you on the principle of “this for that”
Being a mindful giver with a tendency to shift to taker and or reciprocal is the ultimate way you want to be in. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and others.
It’s impact on yourself is feeling happiness and gratitude by giving to others, not being abused by other takers cause you’ll shift gears with them to be a taker yourself and or work on “this for that” principle of reciprocity.
The impact it has on others is by valuing your giving opportunities regardless of what you’ve taken in return. It adds to a powerful connection and relationship.
Meaningful and valuable
You can feel you’re belonging to a group, valued by them, and connected with others around you. But if this relationship isn’t in line with your values, purpose, and goals then you’re better off without them.
Any relationship you’re creating with others, has to be meaningful and adding value to you. That’s provided you’re aware of your own values and purposes in life in the first place, and they have been validated.
Belonging to a group of gossipers, connecting with few of them, and being valued for providing raw material for gossips isn’t a healthy social wellbeing at all.
So, is your relationship with each group or person you have meaningful and valuable?
Are they driving you forward or hindering your development?
Importance of social wellbeing
There are 2 reasons why social wellbeing is so important for you to understand and work on improving: 1- it improves other wellbeing dimensions, and 2- it’s part of our design as human beings.
1- It improves other wellbeing dimensions
Social wellbeing is an important dimension in your overall wellbeing as it interacts and affects the other wellbeing dimensions. So, improving it will create a ripple effect on them.
Higher levels of social wellbeing are positively associated with the number of friends a person can trust and disclose intimate information with, and those levels decline as the number of strangers increases (Powdthavee, 2008).
Having more connections, means more job/work opportunities, so better financial wellbeing
Having valuable friends, means you’re supported in your low times, so better emotional wellbeing. Also, Romantic relationships can be a central source of wellbeing for adolescents and young adults (Gómez-López, Viejo, & Ortega-Ruiz, 2019)
Belonging to a meaningful group, supports you to achieve your purpose, so better spiritual wellbeing. Also, Both the frequency of friendship interactions (intensity) and individual satisfaction with those relationships (quality) have been positively associated with life satisfaction (Amati, Meggiolaro, Rivellini, & Zaccarin, 2018).
Meeting your friends frequently, supports in lowering your stress levels, so better mental wellbeing. Also, support from friends is associated with higher levels of resilience (Secor, Limke-McLean, & Wright, 2017).
Belonging to a club or gym with expert connections, enables better health and fitness, so better physical wellbeing.
2- It’s part of our design
We are meant to be interacting with each other, that’s why it’s hard to think of an important part of your life that doesn’t include creating relationships.
You start doing that with your parents, then rest of family, then friends at school or club then college. After that you start working and you do the same of building relationships with your colleagues, then with your spouse and his/her family as well, and the possibilities never end as long as you’re living.
No matter where you live or how old are you, you have at least 1 meaningful relationship going on in your life
This is totally different from spending some alone time every now and then. Preferring to be left alone is a normal thing you can do to disconnect from or think about whatever it is that is going on in your mind, or simply to relax.
Even if you are an introvert, one of the big 5 personality traits, you still have relationships with others. It just means you prefer quiet, and you don’t seek social gatherings much.
It means, you’re picky about the relationships you’re building because you don’t like being surrounded with many unlike extroverts.
What are the tools to improve social wellbeing?
So, we’ve talked about the definition and what we can extract from that, is that social wellbeing is basically about communicating with others.
That’s why I see that social wellbeing has 2 main toolkits: communication, and parenting.
This is the basic one we use every day in our life. It consists of 4 main tools that we use to communicate with each other, which are reading, writing, listening, and speaking
Reading and listening
We use it to communicate with others by understanding their feelings, emotions, problems, news, etc.
Improving these tools provides you with powerful understanding to others and better ability to interpret their messages.
Writing and speaking
We use it to communicate with others by speaking up and sharing our opinions, messages, requests, call to actions, feedback, etc.
That’s why working on those tools provides you with strong ability to share your message and voice with others.
We’ll talk about communication and the 4 basic tools in depth in the following articles.
In the social wellbeing, we said that it’s about connecting with “others” which includes your kids as well.
Personally, I see this as a separate toolkit in the social wellbeing dimension because of its importance and the value it adds not only to your children, but to the community and us parents as well.
Parenting is about understanding that communication with your kids is very different from that with everyone else.
Yes, it includes the same 4 tools of reading, writing, listening, and speaking with more emphasis on the latter 2, but the strategy in implementing them is different.
We’ll talk more about the parenting toolkit and its different tools in the following articles.
Social wellbeing assessment: How can you measure it to improve it
As I mentioned in the definition, the overall social wellbeing can be assessed subjectively by you using the simple following question from time to time, typically each month.
On a scale from 0-10, 0 being low, and 10 being highest, how would you rank your social wellbeing in the past day/week/month?
Then you do the following:
- Identify your current level
- Choose a target level or number to aim for
- Come up with corrective actions, implement them
- Track in a week or a month by answering the same question again.
- Redo steps 1-4.
Amati, V., Meggiolaro, S., Rivellini, G., & Zaccarin, S. (2018). Social relations and life satisfaction: The role of friends. Genus, 74(1), 1–18.
Gómez-López, M., Viejo, C., & Ortega-Ruiz, R. (2019). Psychological well-being during adolescence: Stability and association with romantic relationships. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1772.
Powdthavee, N. (2008). Putting a price tag on friends, relatives, and neighbours: Using surveys of life satisfaction to value social relationships. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(4), 1459–1480.
Ramirez, D. (2021). What Is Social Wellbeing? 12 Activities for Positive Relationships. PositivePsychology.com
Secor, S. P., Limke-McLean, A., & Wright, R. W. (2017). Whose support matters? Support of friends (but not family) may predict affect and wellbeing of adults faced with negative life events. Journal of Relationships Research, 8.