The Benefit of a Social Support Group
A social support system works as a safety net to help you handle life’s challenges—and social ties can lead to a longer life. Here’s how you can help your loved ones develop and maintain those strong connections.
As humans, we innately want to be surrounded by others. We find comfort in intimacy, seek advice from our elders, and contact our friends when we need a laugh. A diverse and healthy social circle can act as a cushion against mental illness and stress, and can improve your overall wellbeing. Research shows strong social ties can be as important as diet and exercise in maintaining overall health.
Here’s how you can help your loved one develop and maintain a strong social support group.
The Value of Social Support
Your social support system, or social circle, includes a mix of friends, family, colleagues, and mentors that are there for you in times of need. They satisfy your need to belong.
Friends have a tremendous influence on you, too—they can serve as positive role models, set the standard for healthy behaviors, and support you through difficult challenges or life stages. Simply talking to friends and family can help you cope with stress and depression.
It’s crucial to encourage your loved ones to develop a strong, positive social support network. It’s just as important to model positive, healthy friendships. It will influence feelings of self-worth, belonging, and purpose.
Expanding Your Circle
Explain the importance of having a diverse social circle to help navigate through the different facets of your loved one’s life. Here are some ways you can influence your loved one to establish strong friendships.
- Be a strong role model. Talk about your friendships and relationships, and reinforce what it means to be a good friend.
- Encourage your loved one to strengthen existing relationships and continue making new friends. Promote healthy, positive activities where they might make good connections, including volunteering, hobby groups, in exercise classes, or by going back to school.
- Listen to your loved one when they opens up about their social network. Ask appropriate questions to better understand their feelings and where they might feel unsupported or disconnected. Remember, as a family member or friend, you too are in their social support network.
Maintain a Healthy Group
Maintaining a healthy social support group includes giving and receiving support. Encourage your loved one to find balance in friendships and relationships.
- Encourage reflection on their tendencies to give and receive support. Be mindful of what subtleties, like jealousy or being overly comparative, can negatively affect friendships.
- Help them maintain a healthy balance of listening and talking. Relationships are often an exchange—and balance—of emotions and energy. Avoid overwhelming someone, for example, with phone calls or emails, or complaining too much.
- Express gratitude for the support you receive from your loved one. Demonstrate that simply saying thank you goes a long way in any kind of relationship.
- Be supportive and encourage your loved one to be supportive of their own friends as they also experience ups and downs.