Photo of string tied into a heart shaped knot, representing the heart of social health.

Best Social Health Strategies for Wellness

In Social Health, Wellness by Courtney ArcherLeave a Comment

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, social health is important. The way you achieve social health will look different based on your interaction styles and needs, but it achievable no matter how much interaction you need.

Forming relationships with other people is tricky. It can even be hazardous at times. Out of all the things we have some control over, other people are not one of them!

We all know on some level that relationships pose risks. This includes relationships of friendship, romance, business, and neighbors. And yet we are social creatures, and legitimately need relationships to survive.

So how do we do it? How do we achieve social health despite all the ways social interactions can go wrong? And how is it different depending on how introverted or extroverted you are?

Good news folks, we will be addressing each of these questions in this article. By the time you have finished reading it, you will have some solid answers to all of these questions and more.

Photo of string tied into a heart shaped knot, representing the heart of social health.

Social Health & You: How to Improve Social Wellness

What Is Social Health?

It can be difficult to conclude on a solid social health definition. If social health is brought up at all, it tends to be about the importance, rather than the definition of social health.

So here is your solid social health definition: social health is the ability to engage in healthy, worthwhile, meaningful relationships. These relationships look different for everyone, but it is possible for every willing person to create a myriad of them. This is why your ridiculous ex has somehow managed to find a long-term relationship that actually seems functional.

Or maybe they have not learned how to do that yet, but you can. Once you know the general keys to good social health, you can individualize them for yourself and recognize them in others. This will enable you to increase your social health at home, work, and in the community.

Given this social health definition, one of the major parts of developing worthwhile relationships is being able to have and participate in social support systems. Being able to ask for and receive help is crucial for all areas of health. So is being able to offer and give help.

Being able to work through difficult conversations and interactions also plays a role. Being socially healthy does not mean you never disagree. It does not even mean you never run into unresolvable differences.

But it does mean that you are able to deal with these events in a manner that is minimally damaging to you or the other person. You are capable of this. It just takes some education, work, and diligent practice.

And just because you do not necessarily get it right the first time does not mean you cannot do it. You might even get it right a few times again and then find yourself moving backward. This is normal.

The important thing is to recognize that, just as you have the potential to move backward, you also have the potential to move forward. Moving backward does not change that.

Now that we have a working social health definition, let’s discuss moving forward in each aspect of social health–healthy, worthwhile, and meaningful relationships.

Healthy Relationship Examples

Let’s dispel one social health myth right away. Having a healthy relationship does not mean that one person never hurts the other person. It means that when someone does something hurtful, they are willing to listen to feedback and adjust accordingly.

Because people are all unique and individual, inevitably even in the most loving of relationships, someone is going to do something the other person finds hurtful. People disagree about things. They just do.

Sometimes disagreements lead to hurt feelings. In healthy relationships, it is crucial to be able to discuss and problem-solve hurt feelings.

An Example:

Monique has a long day at work. When she comes home, the dishes her partner swore they would do are still sitting in the sink. When her partner comes to say hello she snaps at them.

We have likely all been the partner in this scenario in one way or another. Additionally, we have all been Monique at one point or another. It is not easy to be either person, but that does not mean this scenario has to end in yelling or tears.

Let’s take a look at how a healthy relationship example would handle this:

Monique’s partner invites her to share what is bothering her, validating her emotion. They might even do the dishes if there is not a valid reason not to. When Monique has regained some emotional balance, her partner expresses that it hurt their feelings when she snapped at them instead of saying hello.

In a perfect world Monique would not snap and her partner would have the dishes done. But life happens and the world is not perfect. Being able to work through imperfection is what makes relationships healthy.

Check out this Apology Quiz to learn more about what you (and the important people in your life!) need from an apology when things do not go smoothly.

Please note that abuse is not simply imperfection that needs to be worked through. Abuse needs to be directly addressed, and there is no way to attain a healthy relationship with a person who is unwilling to address their abusive actions.

Worthwhile Relationship Examples

A worthwhile relationship is one that has benefits for both parties. Relationships fulfill a deep need to be accepted, appreciated, and/or loved.

You know that saying that goes something like, “Get rid of anything that does not serve you or make you happy.” Well, feel free to get rid of that saying, because life is not all about being happy–it is about being fulfilled. Being fulfilled requires being pushed, challenged, and even unhappy sometimes.

While they do sometimes coincide, the things that serve us are not always the things that make us happy. It is rash to connect the two so willy nilly.

However, if a relationship (again, any kind of relationship–business, home, community) is to be successful, it must serve you. You might not have the greatest supervisor at work, but the relationship serves you because it helps you progress. It might not make you happy, but it serves you and is, therefore, a worthwhile relationship.

An Example

Monique’s partner’s love language is words of affirmation. When they do something clever or creative, it means the world when Monique recognizes it and says something.

Monique’s love language is quality time. When her partner sets aside time just for her to do something they enjoy together, she feels truly valued and appreciated.

A great way to enhance your romantic relationship’s worthwhileness is for both of you to take Gary Chapman’s Love Language Quiz. If you are interested in improving a relationship with a child, they have a couple of other quizzes for children and teens.

Meaningful Relationship Examples

Meaningful relationships are ones that bring a sense of fulfillment. They often include some kid of commitment, whether spoken or unspoken. This might be a relationship with a child, a coworker, a client, a partner, a parent, etc.

While healthy relationships are about respect and worthwhile relationships are about serving each other, meaningful relationships are about learning from each other. Often one of the lessons learned is that humans can be incredibly wonderful beings despite world-shattering challenges.

Meaningful relationships overcome difficulties in a way that betters those involved. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl discusses “saying yes to life in spite of everything” (p. 137 in the 2006 printing from Beacon Press). He states that this phrase “presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable”.

Relationships run along the same lines, retaining their meaning through the circumstances of grief, trauma, and betrayal. This is not to say that these difficult circumstances should be pursued–Viktor Frankl also said, “to suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic” (p. 113 in the 2006 Beacon Press printing).

Rather, meaningful relationships retain their meaning even when things are not ideal.

What Do Examples of This Look Like?

Think of the parents of a sick child who draw together through turbulent times. Coworkers who bond over the strains and stresses of their jobs. Teachers and students who learn from each other and let that knowledge change the way they go about their lives.

Meaningful relationships are relationships that overcome and persevere. They are relationships that buoy, validate, and uphold through thick and thin.

How is Social Health Different from Emotional & Mental Health?

All areas of wellbeing center around awareness, acceptance, and ability to grow. Emotional, mental, and social health deal with all of these things. However, they deal with these things in different areas that work together to form a whole.

Emotional wellness is the ability to recognize, understand, and work with one’s emotions. In the first example above, Monique would demonstrate emotional wellness by recognizing that she is distressed, understanding that it is due to her long day, and then addressing this emotion intentionally rather than trying to function around it.

Mental health is the ability to recognize, understand, and work with one’s thoughts. Take the thought, “My life sucks.” Mental wellness is the ability to see recognize what you are thinking, to evaluate it, and to figure out where to go with it.

In this case, this would look something like, “I’m thinking that my life sucks because it has been very difficult for me recently. Today I am having a hard time because A, B, & C are happening. X, Y, and Z are some things I am going to do to help myself cope.”

Social wellness is the ability to recognize healthy relationships and what makes them healthy, and using that knowledge and awareness to benefit your own relationships.

Why Social Health Is Important

The answer to the question, “Why is Social Wellness Important,” might seem like a no-brainer. Having functioning relationships is generally pretty high on most people’s lists. We want to love and be loved, appreciate and be appreciated.

However, wanting something and understanding how to get it are not always intuitive. I have wanted a dog long before marrying my dog-hating husband, and I still have no idea how to get one.

I mean, I could just go get one, but then that whole healthy relationship thing would be seriously impacted.

Pardon my tangent. Social health is important because people need people. After all,  as John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”

No matter how introverted a person might be, they still need some form of human interaction. It is one of the basic human needs no matter which theory of human need you are looking at.

However, relationships can be the road to salvation or the road to destruction. Being able to determine social health helps determine which road a relationship might be on.

What Gets in the Way of Good Social Health?

Our brains know that social relationships can take disastrous turns. Just that knowledge alone presents barriers because our brain’s primary function is ultimately to keep us safe and alive. Bless their hearts, our brains take safety to extremes sometimes.

News flash: Extremes Are Not Helpful.

Do not worry though, our brains are also great at learning. Our ability to learn is one of the main things that keeps us alive after all. Just like you can learn common red flags for relationships, you can also learn how to let trustworthy people in.

Another thing that gets in the way of good social health is lack of information. This shows up in not knowing how to respond to a person or situation, not knowing how to initiate a relationship, not knowing what things you need from a relationship–lack of information hangs out all over the place.

Sometimes social health barriers are as simple as not having enough practice. Just like every other complicated, convoluted process we experience, social interactions require a certain level of experience before anyone gets good at them. This can be especially true for people who are more introverted than extroverted.

Extroverted people tend to think a little less about social situations, while introverted people tend to overthink. Of course, this is an oversimplification, but the principle still applies. People who do not agonize over every interaction are likely to engage in more interactions and get more practice.

That is not to say that people who lean toward extroversion do not have their own social wellness challenges. They absolutely do. But it is a little nuanced depending on which end of the spectrum you land on.

How to Improve Your Social Health

Social wellness starts with awareness. If you have read any other articles here, you might be asking, “does everything start with awareness around here?”

Yes. Yes it does.

In order to change, improve, or work with anything, you first have to realize it exists. How often do we not realize how stressed we are until we are crying in our bathroom because we are so overwhelmed we do not know how to function anymore?

You have to be aware of the stress before you can do anything about it. And hint: crying in the bathroom does not have to be the moment you become aware of it.

Likewise, having an all-out fight with someone does not have to be the first sign that something is wrong with the relationship. Bringing awareness to your relationships gives you the ability to catch the little warning signs that trouble is stirring early on.

As mentioned earlier, trouble is going to stir. So let’s discuss how to notice and deal with it early on, shall we?

Social Intelligence Strategies

In order to figure out if a relationship is working for you or not, start with figuring out what you need from the relationship.

Typical things people need from business relationships include reliability, predictability, some kind of work ethic, and respect.

Friendships often need all those things with the addition of similar interests, senses of humor, and a desire to see each other succeed. This is not to say that you have to be exactly like a person to be friends with them, but rather that if you have absolutely nothing in common with another person, you are unlikely to enjoy each other’s company.

Romantic relationships pull from the needs for business relationships and friendships. While it is a cliche for people to say they want to marry their best friend, it is not an unfounded cliche. The things that make for a good friendship also make for a good romantic relationship.

The difference in a romantic relationship is the depth of everything listed above with a deepening of expectations. While you might not expect your best friend to attend your parent’s funeral with you, most people expect their romantic partner to be present for that kind of thing.

Of course, these are generalities. It is important to figure out what you need from your relationships. Once you have that set, it is time to start keeping track of who does and does not respect those needs.

Please note that people do not read minds and that once you realize what your needs are the next step is to tell people about them so they can respect your boundaries. Also, note that part of social intelligence is realizing your boundaries are not other people’s boundaries.

Social Health Strategies for Introverts

The more you are inclined toward the introverted side of the spectrum, the more you are going to need to seriously figure out your needs and your boundaries.

Start with figuring out what kind of interaction you need and how often. Does a weekly phone call with your mom fill your social interaction quota, or do you need more than that?

Most people (even introverts!) need more. Some people need less. Figure out what works for you.

Once that is done, pinpoint some things that definitely do not work for you. (When your best friend calls you at 2 in the morning to tell you about their latest dating exploits, when your significant other takes all of your time and you do not have any time to recharge before the end of the day, etc.)

When you have sorted out what you need from other people, present your boundaries in an “I need” format rather than a “You need” format. For example, instead of “You need to give me time to myself sometimes,” saying, “I need some alone time every day to de-stress.”

Remember, flexibility goes a long way. Asking questions like, “When is a time that works for both of us for me to get some alone time?” and “What are things you enjoy doing together that I could plan my alone time around?” is helpful.

Letting people know your schedule can be a good way to set boundaries at work. For example, clearly stating when you take your lunch break or do your documentation lets people know when not to disturb you.

Ultimately, figuring out what you need and then letting people know so that they can respect your needs can make a world of difference.

Social Health Strategies for Extroverts

It is just as important for extroverts to know what they need and to set clear boundaries as it is for introverts. Introversion and extroversion is really a spectrum, not a one-or-the-other sort of thing.

Just because you love interacting with people does not mean you could not use some new and possibly more effective strategies. The first one?


The more you lean toward extroversion, the more you need to interact with people to feel happy and fulfilled. You are going to need more than one person for that. Especially if your person is an introvert!

Find people you can have a friendly conversation with at work. Ask your neighbors how they got their tree to grow so well.

Expressing curiosity about other people and their successes is a great way to open dialogue and initiate social interactions.

In Conclusion

Social health is important. Recognizing what it takes to create and maintain a healthy relationship is vital to being able to have healthy relationships.

Healthy relationships are not relationships without problems, but rather relationships that are able to resolve problems. Part of that is figuring out your needs, setting boundaries, and bringing people into your life who respect those boundaries.

Just like mental health and emotional health, social health is about being aware of what is already happening and figuring out how to improve or maintain it. Reading this article is a great step to take on your social health journey!

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